Some Credible Evidence: Perceptions about the Evidence Base in the Peacebuilding Field (2021)
Conor Seyle, Sarah Heyborne, Jessica Baumgardner-Zuzik, Shaziya DeYoung; OEF, AfP
This report presents the result of a survey conducted by One Earth Future and Alliance for Peacebuilding asking peacebuilders and researchers about their perception of what kind of evidence exists and what kind is needed to improve work in the peacebuilding field.
The discussion around “evidence based practice” in peacebuilding has included debates over what kinds of information counts as evidence, what kinds of methods are appropriate for generating this information, and what kinds of evidence are needed to support effective peacebuilding. These debates may create the impression that the field as a whole doesn’t have a strong shared understanding of what kind of evidence exists or what matters. This survey represents an attempt to determine if the field has a shared understanding of what kind of evidence is needed and where that evidence exists.
- Overall, the field reports fairly strong consensus about the need for evidence and what it should look like. This consensus is nuanced and pragmatic, and does not strongly reflect either of the major perspectives in literature of the ongoing debate about evidence and methods. Participants strongly preferred multiple studies using mixed methods as a foundation and considered multiple case studies to be a minimum for endorsing interventions.
- Based on that understanding of evidence, participants reported a fairly strong amount of evidence showing what conditions are needed for peace. Participants reported that there is good evidence describing what sustainable peace looks like, and what conditions peacebuilding interventions need to deliver.
- Participants reported that there is significantly less evidence showing which interventions or approaches successfully deliver the conditions identified for peace. Only three interventions met the cutoff for having “some credible evidence” showing impact: Improving education and increasing women’s engagement in economic and political life as preventive measures, and increasing women’s participation in peace negotiations as peacemaking measures. No other interventions were found has having the same support as these three.
- Overall recommendations based on these findings include the need to develop a broader understanding of the domains of peacebuilding and the evidence supporting both conditions and interventions, the need for the field to have a way of talking about rigor separate from debates about methods, and the need for more evidence engaging with which interventions work or don’t work.