Peacebuilding Systems Project
In early 2011, the Alliance for Peacebuilding launched the Peacebuilding Systems Project (PSP). PSP will apply systems thinking to peacebuilding with the ultimate goal of strengthening the field's ability to learn effectively and efficiently how to best engage with the complex environments in which they work.
The Problem: Conflict and Complexity
Peace as a concept is nearly universal in its appeal, yet lasting peace is elusive. Peacebuilders' work includes multidimensional, highly adaptive, "wicked” problems that involve complex interrelationships among between different social and environmental phenomena, like violence, poverty, disasters, economic performance, public health, crime, inter-group relations, ecological damage, gender dynamics, political crises, and more. This complexity makes it very difficult to see how specific programs are affecting the larger system. Lasting, sustainable peace is not possible if we continue to try to create it through a series of uncoordinated micro-level interventions. The complex, multi-faceted nature of conflict requires correspondingly diverse and flexible responses. As AfP Board Director Rob Ricigliano writes in Making Peace Last, "Peacebuilding needs a productivity revolution.”
Seeing a conversion of all of our work, AfP partnered with multi-disciplinary teams from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, George Mason University the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, the Center for Global Health and Peacebuilding, Group W, and several leading academics and practitioners in the field of complexity, systems and conflict management, including Ben Ramalingam, Peter Coleman and Diana Chigas on developing a Learning-Enabled Architecture for Peacebuilding (LEAP).
LEAP will integrate field experience in using complexity tools with extensive knowledge in data analysis and apply these tools to complex peacebuilding challenges. This architecture would enable peacebuilders to develop a new generation of holistic, evidence-based, and complexity-enabled practices, or what might be labeled "Peacebuilding 2.0.” LEAP will enable our understanding of complex systems to "grow” through learning and the incorporation of new practices and technologies to yield better outcomes over time. By increasing partner capacities to apply and build upon existing knowledge, LEAP will:
Enable peacebuilders to engage effectively with complexity and develop integrated approaches throughout all the stages of the program cycle (policy-planning-design-implementation-M&E);
Develop an architecture for an advanced informatics framework for improving practitioners' ability to achieve lasting, more cost-effective systemic impacts (Peacebuilding 2.0) through a sound, data-supported, evidence-based practice; e.g. continually learning over time about how programs across sectors interact with complex social dynamics to produce sustainable peace and human security;
Create a dynamic trans-disciplinary learning environment that embraces complexity as a central component of research and teaching in sustainability, development and peacebuilding – engaging US and International universities and partners in fostering innovative thinking and novel approaches for peacebuilding, human security and human development.
Our Members’ Systems Work
The peacebuilding field seems to be approaching a consensus that the cross-disciplinary approach of systems theory, also known as the "science of wholeness,” can play an essential role in linking micro-level programs to macro-level change. If applied to peacebuilding, systems theory will allow policy makers and practitioners to better understand the complex environments within which they work and to design more sustainable, cost effective projects—in part by measuring their impact with built-in data collection systems that act as feedback mechanisms.
This project builds on the groundswell for applying systems and complexity theory to peacebuilding. PSP will attempt to draw together lessons learned from our members with decades of experience in using systems, complexity and learning to foster more effective peacebuilding work. These include Guy and Heidi Burgess, Diana Chigas, Louise Diamond, Peter Dixon, Thom Feorah, Hrach Gregorian, Rob Ricigliano and Peter Woodrow.
For more information, or to learn how you can be involved, please contact Melanie Kawano-Chiu, Program Director, at email@example.com.