Peacebuilding Effectiveness

CDA is known as a leader in peacebuilding effectiveness work. We help policy makers, practitioners, and organizations improve the relevance and accountability of programming through better tools for conflict analysis, program strategy design, and assessment. CDA has also contributed to influential policy guidance, such as the OECD/DAC Guidance on Evaluating Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding Activities. CDA is a thought leader in applying systems thinking to conflict analysis, program design and evaluation. Current collaborative learning efforts are exploring the cumulative effects of peacebuilding efforts and further enhancing monitoring and evaluation tools, in collaboration with the Peacebuilding Evaluation Consortium.

CDA’s work on peacebuilding effectiveness began in 1999 with the launch of the Reflecting on Peace Practice Program (RPP). RPP posed a simple, albeit complex question: What works- and what doesn’t work – in peacebuilding? RPP worked with hundreds of agencies and individuals, and conducted 26 peacebuilding case studies throughout the world to glean lessons applicable across conflict contexts and develop user-friendly toolkits. The resulting lessons are presented in Confronting War: Critical Lessons for Peace Practitioners (2003). Between 2007 and 2009, CDA undertook 16 case studies that investigated the cumulative impacts of peacebuilding programs in Europe, Africa, Middle East, Asia and Latin America. Findings from these have been published in issue papers, and select publications.

CDA is currently developing a new collaborative learning initiative on effective approaches to prevent violent extremism, and has recently published a briefing paper on applying established design, monitoring and evaluation approaches from the peacebuilding and development fields to the emerging field of preventing and countering violent extremism.

Collective Impact

CDA has been investing in developing collective impact​ as a new model for peacebuilding. This work builds on years of experience working on peacebuilding effectiveness, as well as lessons emerging from 16 “cumulative impact” case studies that investigated how multiple peacebuilding efforts “add up” to progress towards sustainable peace. As part of a project supported by Humanity United, “Collective Impact for Peacebuilding: Testing a new model,” CDA produced a “Framework for Collective Impact in Peacebuilding.” We are currently conducting additional case studies.

The primary aim of this project is to document and learn from the experiences of collective impact efforts by formal and informal networks and consortia in peacebuilding to develop further insights about multi-stakeholder initiatives.

Prevention of Violent Extremism

CDA recently published a briefing paper on the design, monitoring and evaluation (DM&E) of initiatives aimed at preventing or countering violent extremism (P/CVE). The paper applies existing approaches and learnings from DM&E of peacebuilding and development initiatives to the emerging field of P/CVE, and was produced in collaboration with the Peacebuilding Evaluation Consortium.

CDA also seeks financial supporters for a new collaborative learning initiative regarding the relevance of P/CVE strategies and programs. The objective of this project is to advance the analytical understanding of what works and what doesn’t work in P/CVE approaches, to test existing theories of change, to strengthen the evidence base, and to ultimately promote more conceptually and practically sound engagements on P/CVE from a policy and practice perspective.

Systems Thinking and Systems Analysis

Building on the lessons from its Reflecting on Peace Practice Program and through engagements with policy makers and practitioners, CDA has become a leader in the field of systems thinking in conflict analysis, and its application to strategy review and design. Applying a systems approach is particularly helpful for understanding overall conflict dynamics for the purposes of planning strategies and programs with diverse teams, striving for greater collective impact beyond project levels.

A Selection of Publications

Featured Projects

Ask the Experts

CDA provides services to peacebuilding organizations, and donors.  Ask us how we can customize our resources and expertise to help you improve the effectiveness of your peacebuilding efforts. Contact

Anita Ernstorfer, Director of Advisory Services [email]

Isabella Jean, Director of Collaborative Learning and Evaluation [email]

Sweta Velpillay, Senior Advisor – Conflict Sensitivity and Peacebuilding Effectiveness [email]

Kiely Barnard-Webster, Program Manager [email]

Selection of Recent Applied Research Engagements

Clients or Partners





Peacebuilding Evaluation Consortium Alliance for Peacebuilding, Search for Common Ground, Mercy Corps Developing new DM&E tools or peacebuilding and advancing the field overall. One engagement focused on inter-religious aspects in peacebuilding. Global/Various countries 2014- ongoing

US State Department/INL

BESA Consulting; RCN Justice et Démocratie

Support more effective anti-corruption programmes based on systems approaches and improved M&E.



Humanity United

Development and testing of a model for collective impact in peacebuilding

Global and pilot countries tbd

2016- ongoing

“The ongoing collaboration between AFSC and CDA for the past three years has been invaluable. Through various learning formats like systems mapping and Reflecting on Peace Practice (RPP) training, problem analysis theory and customized coaching, CDA has enhanced our ability to reflect on the work we do for peace and social justice around the world in new ways.  Each year, our relationship with CDA improves and becomes more defined.  We are confident that the skills and training we continue to receive are contributing to a sustained internal wheelhouse of knowledge and expertise that offers technical and contextual support towards effective and efficient peace programming.”

Richelle Todd-Yamoah

Director of Program Support, American Friends Service Committee

Selection of Recent Advisory Service Engagements

Clients or Partners




The Carter Center

Support for more systematic inclusion of analysis and program design tools into MEL processes




CDA in consortium with Saferworld, swisspeace, Stockholm Policy Group, Global Emergency Group

Human security and humanitarian assistance helpdesk

Global/Various countries

2016- ongoing

International Alert

Strategic program support and DM&E

South Caucasus

2016- ongoing

Search for Common Ground

Support cumulative impacts with youth programming in Sri Lanka Sri Lanka  2017-ongoing

UK Stabilization Unit

M&E capacity development in conflict affected contexts – facilitation of training sessions



AFSC – American Friends Service Committee

Ongoing collaboration and various areas of support, including program strategy development, systems support and M&E Global and select country specific work 2015- ongoing
One Earth Future Foundation (OEF) Facilitation of systems Analysis and Do No Harm training  Global 2017

BMZ – German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development

Facilitation of participatory systems analysis Iraq, conflict-sensitive country strategy review and planning

Iraq 2016

Swedish Fellowship of Reconciliation

Western Sahara and strategic program planning 

Western Sahara 2017
 MSI – Management Systems International Facilitation of participatory systems analysis of Eastern DRC and initial DNH assessment of program design DRC 2017
OAS + CARICOM Collaboration with EU funded GCRSP – Global Crisis Response Support Programme Facilitation of conflict analysis, RPP and DNH training workshops Washington DC and Barbados 2016
Kvinna till Kvinna Facilitation of participatory systems analysis and conflict-sensitive program design  Afghanistan 2015
Omidyar Group Develop tools for assessing effectiveness in complex environments Global 2016
ARK Group Facilitation of participatory systems analysis and strategic portfolio review Syria 2015, 2016
UN Global Compact Support to Business and Peace Impact Assessment Advisory Group and development of resource on M&E of business and peace. Global 2016
Essential Partners M&E support to assess effectiveness of dialogue facilitation Global 2016, 2017
Saferworld Facilitation of participatory conflict systems analysis and program strategy review Western Balkans 2015
Interpeace Facilitation of participatory RPP infused program quality assessment of Interpeace’s Dialogue program Mali 2013
Norwegian Church Aid

Facilitation of participatory conflict systems analysis (Pakistan) and various RPP and DNH trainings 

Global, South East Asia, Pakistan 2014, 2015

DFID CCVRI – Conflict, Crime, and Violence Results Initiative

Helpdesk for DFID on measuring program results in fragile in conflict-affected contexts. Consortium with CARE, Saferworld, SFCG, small arms survey, VERA Institute of Justice Global and select country focus, e.g. South Sudan and Afghanistan 2012-2014

“When the Organization of American States (OAS) said that they would like to improve their capacities in conflict analysis, I knew exactly where to ask for help… obviously CDA. I knew I could count on them to deliver the best conflict analysis training, and one that would meet the expectations of top OAS policy analysts. I was not wrong. Anita and Michelle did a tremendous job. They enriched the workshop by developing a case study based on OAS-specific needs. They also suggested additional tools to tailor the contents to the needs of people who deal with high-stakes policy negotiations and programmes in the Latin America region. The OAS event was so successful that Caribbean counterparts requested a similar workshop for their own regional agencies. The Caribbean workshop too was highly appreciated by all the participants.”


Regional Team Leader, Global Crisis Response Capacity Development Programme, European Union