What did we learn from January’s Ask an Expert Series

Jack Farrell

Created 02/12/2021


Throughout the month of January, the DME for Peace team in partnership with Alliance for Peacebuilding with support from the GHR Foundation through the Effective Inter-religious Action in Peacebuilding program, hosted a three part “Ask an Expert” webinar series around issues that are pertinent to peacebuilders around the world. Below are some key insights and reflections from those webinars.

Ask an Expert: Preparing to evaluate an inter-religious peacebuilding program

Inter-religious peacebuilding programs are nuanced and different: Fundamentally, it means bringing faith-actors into the program and weaving them into existing peacebuilding approaches. Sometimes that requires identifying shared values across different religions, recognizing that it’s easier to bring people together around these ideas rather than contentious issues.

Preparing for an inter-religious evaluation is different: You want to observe behavioral change and understand the core reasons for that behavior change. These results will vary based on faith and demographic group. There is an intentionality in understanding religious identity and that needs to be central to the evaluation. 

There is no perfect evaluation methodology: An evaluative approach should be grounded in the context. A methodology should be selected based on the questions that you’re trying to answer through the evaluation, what type of data you are collecting, and  your data collection approach.

Participation matters: It takes time and resources to utilize participatory approaches to evaluation, but there are huge benefits in being able to learn directly from the community that were impacted by the program. Participatory approaches will better enable your to such as understanding the different behavioral changes among different faith-based groups.

Ask an Expert: Adapting your programs for maximum impact

It takes time to adapt: NGOs often rush to complete project deliverables and meet donor expectations, but it takes time to adapt. Peacebuilding programs are hard to measure, and effective data collection takes time, particularly when we’re trying to engage the communities we are working with to understand their perspectives on changes as a result of our programming. As we rush to meet deliverables, we often bypass potential opportunities to change and adapt programs for the better. 

Understand what counts as data and then maximize available data: People think they don’t have the right data to make adaptations, or they view reporting data as a separate entity. In order to make the greatest impact, we need to understand what can be considered as a data point, leverage all of all the existing data sources, and apply that data to make the case for an adaptation. 

It can be harder for larger organizations to make the necessary adaptations: smaller organizations are more likely to lean into learning, they can be more fluid and pivot quickly when needed. For large organizations, while they are considered more successful from an organizational and funding perspective, they often struggle due to internal bureaucracy; by the time the data reaches the decision-maker it might be too late to make the adaptation. 

Ask an Expert: Communicating the results of your work

Different audiences have different needs: You need to understand the different audiences that you are trying to reach and then you have to ask a couple of key questions: What information does this audience need? What is this audiences’ availability/how much time do they have to consume this information? What is their level of data literacy and how do they like to receive information? If you can, co-design with your audience and try to ensure utilization/usability.

Creating a learning product is not the end of the conversation, it’s the beginning: It takes time to socialize concepts and learning, it requires continued engagement to make sure that people are able to digest the information, discuss the content, and learn from it. 

Don’t be fixated on one visual product: Yes, you love infographics and dashboards, but is that the right fit for what you’re trying to achieve and the audience you’re trying to reach? Make the best decision for your own objectives and the audience you’re trying to reach.

Show people what’s possible with the information: Illustrative examples of how to communicate their information can help inspire creativity among people who do not normally consider themselves as a creative designer. 

Download the PDF on this page for some key resources that were shared by Kat & Jenny during the discussion.


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