Celina del Felice
“Youth in Peace-Building: Developing Criteria to Identify Best Practices” 2004
Evaluation is a necessary condition for improvement. In the process of planning and implementing youth peace-building projects, evaluation is necessary to see the relevance and adequacy of the project and of the activities to the social needs that defined the objectives. Evaluation is necessary in order to confront the process and the results with the original objectives and with the social, institutional and personal reasons that motivated the project. This will allow young peace-builders to draw conclusions about the success or failures of the project.
In our work with young peace-builders from all over the world we realized that their work is driven by strong commitment and idealism, but that most of them do too little or no evaluation in the planning, realisation or concluding stages of their work. Practically, they seem to have little time to spend on evaluation of old projects when new exciting projects are already in the making. Some young peace-builders on the other hand do see the need for evaluation as a way to improve their work for peace and try to evaluate their projects. However, they often end up with new questions rather than conclusions.
The urging question hence is: What makes for a good youth peace-building project? To our knowledge, no evaluation criteria exist that are specifically focused on youth peace-building practices. Existing criteria are often not specific enough and hence not very useful for the particular needs of youth. The aspiration was not to write anew points of evaluation, but to research how evaluation is (implicitly and explicitly) done in the field of youth peacebuilding, enrich this practice of evaluation by a study of available theoretical frameworks of evaluation and design criteria for evaluating youth peacebuilding practice that are accessible, helpful, clear and comprehensible. The criteria should meet the primary needs of young peacebuilders and, in the second instance, of other actors in the field: peacebuilding networks, governmental institutions working with youth, funding agencies, sponsors and academics in peace research.
The methodology was based on qualitative methods. The reason for this choice was that we could only observe a limited amount of experiences in youth peace work. A quantitative approach would have needed a larger sample. The first step was to undertake a literature review on the subject. The second step was to search and analyse existing criteria. We primarily searched for existing criteria used by youth and peace organisations. Our main method was interviews with 19 young peace-builders complemented by a survey among 32 young peace workers. During the process we also consulted with practitioners and researchers who have been already working on similar studies or are familiar in one way or another with youth peace-building work. The reason for basing our research on interviews and a survey was that we wanted to hear from young peace-builders themselves what the explicit and implicit, open and hidden, criteria of evaluation were.
The process of research on the practice of evaluation led to the formulation of the proposed criteria.
- The formulation is based on a number of fundamental ideas and assumptions:
- Values: Evaluating what is good is based on certain values reflected in the content and format of the actions we do in a certain cultural context. Thus, we have to look into knowledge and information, skills, attitudes and behaviour.
- Levels: The evaluation proposed is on three levels: 1) individual; 2) team or youth group; 3) community or project in the social context. It is not the same to evaluate the progress made as an individual than progress made as a group.
- Process: We understand peace-building as a long-term process and we believe that every step counts. Therefore, we can analyse progress made in the short-term (outputs of activities); mid-term (outcomes) and long-term (impact).
- Context: Neither peace educators nor youth workers can control all the variables and factors that influence the decision of a person to act in a certain way. However, they can control the content and methodology of their activities by being aware of other existing variables and factors. Planning and evaluation of any action should be made taking into consideration the context, history, culture, laws, and other forms of education which may influence the participants: formal education, non-formal education and informal education activities.
The main results are reflected in the construction of a tentative evaluation criteria framework for youth peace work and a practical evaluation tool based on these criteria.