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What do we share? Promoting collaboration in peacebuilding & development

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In May 2016, in Bujumbura, Burundi, a group of organizations from different sectors came together to answer the question: what do we share? The answer: we share a lot! Across sectors, and in one of the most complex contexts in the world today, the group in Burundi was able to recognize their shared goals, shared challenges, and even worked through shared monitoring and planning tools, ultimately recognizing how exchanging information could improve each of their work.

The group included representatives from peacebuilding, human rights, youth, education, economic development, environmental protection, and health sectors. Brought together by Search for Common Ground’s Burundi office, supported by UNICEF and USAID, the organizations discussed how design, monitoring, and evaluation (DM&E) and conflict sensitivity are being implemented in Burundi’s rapidly changing climate.

What are our shared interests?

As peacebuilders and development professionals, we ask communities around the globe to focus on commonalities to overcome differences. But when it comes to our own work and organizations, we often fail to walk the talk; different sectors within peace and development, and different organizations within the same sector, or even different departments within the same organization!, may fail to see their shared goals, and instead focus on their perceived differences.

How can we overcome these blockages? The first step may be simply coming together for open conversation, practicing what we preach by engaging in dialogue to find our professional common ground.

The working group listed shared goals, challenges, and tools, all of which were captured and are available here, in French, on DME for Peace. Participants also created a list of unifiers for peace and development work in Burundi, this list served to center the group around ideas that bring people together rather than exacerbate perceived divides. Unifiers included everything from freedom and love, to specific initiatives like savings and loan groups. It was a powerful demonstration of the shared passion each participant had for improving their work and their communities.

The next goal of the workshop was sharing tools. Search Burundi led this effort by sharing their M&E Plan Template and guiding the participants through filling the plan out to fit their own work and context. Search’s M&E Plan Template has been made available online on DME for Peace along with Search’s templates for a working set of tools. These tools are being piloted with partners and colleagues with the hope and expectation and through sharing, everyone can learn from how the tools are adapted to different of sectors and programs.

Why do we share tools and information?

Sharing our knowledge and tools serves three major purposes:

Decreases the learning curve of new practitioners Enables more rapid responses to resource needs and inquiries Reduces rework and prevents "reinvention of the wheel".

Each of these three purposes is valuable in any context, but especially in complex contexts like Burundi, where programming that is not as informed and effective as possible has the potential to do serious harm.

What are the barriers to sharing?

The Bujumbura workshop identified some key barriers to sharing knowledge and tools:

A lack of staff resources and expertise to facilitate identification and sharing of best practices; who is the decider of “what works?” A lack of set processes and tools designed to share knowledge through reports, electronic discussions and face-to-face meetings;
A lack of organizational and individual commitment to take the time needed to identify, document and share best practices.

Each of these can be addressed through M&E, particularly the “M”. Monitoring is crucial to good sharing, active and reflective monitoring allows us to see what is working, and better understand why. Effective knowledge and tools must be documented, strategically shared, and applied to improve practice.

How can we share internally

Tips on strategic internal sharing from the workshop participants included:

Build internal capacity. Sharing is easier to agree upon than to operationalize. For organizations trying to start up sharing systems, building internal capacity to analyze and use data is a crucial foundational step.

Two ways to build internal capacity are to join communities or working groups (a list of communities and resources is shared below) and to partner with donors or other NGOs with established learning systems. Peer communities can provide insight and practical advice on how to improve organizational and programmatic learning. As donors increasingly express interest and expectations to improve learning outcomes, they can build local capacity to do so by supporting joint learning and analysis initiatives between emerging and established systems.

Carve out specific time to share knowledge, tools, and results at the organizational level. This both spreads know-how and increases buy-in to the sharing process.

Create opportunities to share in-person. It’s not enough to send an email; have a face-to-face conversation when possible, and always be sure to follow up to see if and how shared knowledge is being utilized. It will encourage your colleagues to use what you’re sharing, and you might learn something new from the way they are applying something!

Create a culture of sharing. Build a supportive environment where colleagues are encouraged to share, sharing is celebrated and acknowledged, and there is also a safe space to share negative lessons (failures).

How can we share externally?

The internet creates fantastic opportunities for sharing and learning. Through resources hubs and online communities, we can share and learn both globally and locally.

Communities of practice (CoP) are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and who interact regularly to learn how to do it better. Through a CoP practitioners can reach across organizational and geographic boundaries to engage in joint activities and discussions, help each other, and share information.

We recommend,

DME for Peace (of course!) - DME for Peace (Design, Monitoring & Evaluation for Peace) is an open-source knowledge platform that provides over 4,800 peacebuilders, development practitioners, evaluators, academics, donors, and social justice activists with an interactive space to share and learn about best and emerging practices on how to design, monitor, and evaluate peace and development programs. With 1000+ resources and discussion topics, and 74 M&E Thursday Talks Webinars available on the site, DME for Peace is the go to resource for DM&E in complex contexts.

Peace Exchange - A collaboration between USAID and DME for Peace, Peace Exchange is an open, online community of practice where anyone with experience in, or a passion for, conflict sensitivity can share their experiences and resources on conflict sensitive practices, tools, and literature. Peace Exchange hosts a diverse library of 80+ resources that includes USAID CMM training materials, capacity building materials for trainings and workshops, and acts as a forum for community conversations on the important field of conflict sensitivity.

EvalPartners - A global partnership to strengthen national evaluative capacities.

Gender and Evaluation (link is external)- With more than 1,100 members globally, Gender and Evaluation is an open global platform that promotes engendering national policy through evaluation. Gender and Evaluation serves as a knowledge hub for equity-focused and gender-responsive evaluation (EFGRE) on behalf of EvalGender+.

Peace and Collaborative Development Network (PCDN) (link is external) - A hub for the global change making community. PCDN is a rapidly growing social enterprise that gathers over 35,500 professionals, organizations and students engaged in social change, peacebuilding, social entrepreneurship, development and related fields. PCDN aims to be a one-stop-shop to inspire, connect, inform and provide the tools and resources to scale social change.

BetterEvaluation (link is external) - BetterEvaluation is an international collaboration to improve evaluation practice and theory by sharing and generating information about options (methods or processes) and approaches.

MEASURE Evaluation (link is external) - MEASURE Evaluation provides technical leadership through collaboration at local, national, and global levels to advance the field of global health monitoring and evaluation. We build the sustainable capacity of individuals and organizations to identify data needs, collect and analyze technically sound data, and use that data for health decision making.

3ie (link is external) -Using evidence to find out what works in development 3ie funds impact evaluations and systematic reviews that generate high quality evidence on what works in development and why. Evidence on development effectiveness can inform policy and improve the lives of poor people.

The Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action (ALNAP) (link is external) - Established in 1997 ALNAP is a forum on learning, accountability and performance issues for the humanitarian sector.

Outcome Mapping Community (link is external) -The Outcome Mapping Learning Community is a global, informal, open membership network for sharing information and facilitating learning on using Outcome Mapping for planning, monitoring and evaluating complex interventions.