Duggan & Bush on Evaluation in Settings Affected by Violent Conflict: What Difference Does Context Make?

From AEA365:| A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators. Posted: 08 Feb 2013 12:51 AM PST

“We are Colleen Duggan, Senior Evaluation Specialist, International Development Research Centre (Canada) and Kenneth Bush, Director of Research, International Conflict Research (Northern Ireland).  For the past three years, we have been collaborating on a joint exploratory research project called Evaluation in Extremis:  The Politics and Impact of Research in Violently Divided Societies, bringing together researchers, evaluators, advocates and evaluation commissioners from the global North and South. We looked at the most vexing challenges and promising avenues for improving evaluation practice in conflict-affected environments.

CHALLENGES Conflict Context Affects Evaluation – and vice versa.  Evaluation actors working in settings affected by militarized or non-militarized violence suffer from the typical challenges confronting development evaluation.  But, conflict context shapes how, where and when evaluations can be undertaken – imposing methodological, political, logistical, and ethical challenges. Equally, evaluation (its conduct, findings, and utilization) may affect the conflict context – directly, indirectly, positively or negatively.

Lessons Learned:

Extreme conditions amplify the risks to evaluation actors.  Contextual volatility and political hyper-sensitivity must be explicitly integrated into the planning, design, conduct, dissemination, and utilization of evaluation.

  1. Some challenges may be anticipated and prepared for, others may not. By recognizing the most likely dangers/opportunities at each stage in the evaluation process we are better prepared to circumvent “avoidable risks or harm” and to prepare for unavoidable negative contingencies.
  2. Deal with politico-ethics dilemmas. Being able to recognize when ethics dilemmas (questions of good, bad, right and wrong) collide with political dilemmas (questions of power and control) is an important analytical skill for both evaluators and their clients.  Speaking openly about how politics and ethics – and not only methodological and technical considerations – influence all facets of evaluation in these settings reinforces local social capital and improves evaluation transparency.
  3. The space for advocacy and policymaking can open or close quickly, requiring readiness to use findings posthaste. Evaluators need to be nimble, responsive, and innovative in their evaluation use strategies.

Rad Resources:

  • 2013 INCORE Summer School Course on Evaluation in Conflict Prone Settings , University of Ulster, Derry/ Londonderry (Northern Ireland. A 5-day skills building course for early to mid-level professionals facing evaluation challenges in conflict prone settings or involved in commissioning, managing, or conducting evaluations in a programming or policy-making capacity.
  • Kenneth Bush and Colleen Duggan ((2013) Evaluation in Extremis: the Politics and Impact of Research in Violently Divided Societies (SAGE: Delhi, forthcoming)

Evaluating Peacebuilding Activities in Settings of Conflict and Fragility: Improving Learning for Results

DAC Guidelines and Reference Series

Publication Date :08 Nov 2012
Pages :88
ISBN :9789264106802 (PDF) ; 9789264106796 (print)
DOI :10.1787/9789264106802-en


Recognising a need for better, tailored approaches to learning and accountability in conflict settings, the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) launched an initiative to develop guidance on evaluating conflict prevention and peacebuilding activities.  The objective of this process has been to help improve evaluation practice and thereby support the broader community of experts and implementing organisations to enhance the quality of conflict prevention and peacebuilding interventions. It also seeks to guide policy makers, field and desk officers, and country partners towards a better understanding of the role and utility of evaluations. The guidance  presented in this book provides background on key policy issues affecting donor engagement in settings of conflict and fragility and introduces some of the challenges to evaluation particular to these settings. It then provides step-by-step guidance on the core steps in planning, carrying out and learning from evaluation, as well as some basic principles on programme design and management.

Table of Contents


Executive summary


Introduction: Why guidance on evaluating donor engagement in situations of conflict and fragility?

Chapter 1. Conceptual background and the need for improved approaches in situations of conflict and fragility

Chapter 2. Addressing challenges of evaluation in situations of conflict and fragility

Chapter 3. Preparing an evaluation in situations of conflict and fragility

Chapter 4. Conducting an evaluation in situations of conflict and fragility

Annex A. Conflict analysis and its use in evaluation

Annex B. Understanding and evaluating theories of change

Annex C. Sample terms of reference for a conflict evaluation



Evaluation and Assessment of Poverty and Conflict Interventions (EAPC)

[from the MercyCorps website]

“A significant body of knowledge exists on the relationship between poverty and conflict. Research has shown that low per capita income and slow economic growth drastically increase the chances that a country will experience violence. Driven in part by these findings, donors and their partners are implementing increasing numbers of economic development programs in conflict and post-conflict environments, based on the assumption that these will contribute to both poverty reduction and conflict management.”

“To test this assumption, Mercy Corps implemented the USAID-funded Evaluation and Assessment of Poverty and Conflict Interventions (EAPC) research project. Over the 18 month life of the project, Mercy Corps worked with its field teams in Ethiopia, Indonesia, and Uganda to 1) develop indicators and data collection tools, 2) field test these indicators and tools, and 3) begin to assess several theories of change that inform Mercy Corps’ programs.”

“Findings from the research project are shared in three key documents:
Conflict & Economics: Lessons Learned on Measuring Impact, a summary of learning about M&E in conflict-affected environments, including indicator menus and data collection tools.
A case study highlighting findings from Uganda.
A case study highlighting findings from Indonesia.

Please contact Jenny Vaughan at jvaughan@bos.mercycorps.org for further information.”

Evaluation in Conflict Prone Settings: Londonderry, June 2010

Date: 7th – 11th June 2010
Venue: Londonderry, Northern Ireland
As part of its 11th International Summer School, INCORE (International Conflict Research Institute) will be running a course on Evaluation in Conflict Prone Settings.

The course covers the basics of conducting evaluations of initiatives in conflict-prone settings. The focus of the course is not limited to peacebuilding initiatives, but applies to the evaluation of the full spectrum of initiatives: development, humanitarian, private sectors, community development, and so on. Similarly, the term “conflict-prone” is broadly defined in the course. It can be applied to community work on interface areas of inner-cities, or it can be applied to more conventional, protracted, militarized conflicts. The course will be facilitated by Dr Kenneth Bush (INCORE) and Colleen Duggan (IDRC).

The 2010 International Summer School will run from 7th-11th June. The Summer School will be based on the historic Magee Campus in the city of Derry/Londonderry, on the shores of Lough Foyle in the north west of Northern Ireland, easily accessible by road, rail and air.

Previous participants of the INCORE Summer School have included USAID, European Union DG External Relations, UK Department for International Development, World Food Programme, UN Department for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and others. The INCORE Summer School is recognised by UNITAR (United Nations Institute for Training and Research) Programme of Correspondence Instruction in Peacekeeping Operations, and may form part of The Certificate-of-Training In Peace Support Operations (COTIPSO) Programme.

Visit www.unitarpoci.org for further details.


Visit: http://www.incore.ulst.ac.uk/courses/ss/


Email: school@incore.ulst.ac.uk

Tel: +44 (0) 28 7137 5500 Fax: +44 (0) 28 7137 5510 INCORE, University of Ulster, Aberfoyle House, Northland Road, Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland, BT48 7JL