Peacebuilding Effectiveness

CDA is known as a leader in peacebuilding effectiveness work. We help peace 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. CDA is a thought leader in applying systems thinking to conflict analysis, program design and evaluation. Current collaborative learning and research and development efforts are exploring the cumulative effects of peacebuilding efforts and further enhancing monitoring and evaluation tools.

CDA’s work on peacebuilding effectiveness began in 1999 with the launch of the Reflecting on Peace Practice Program (RPP). The Reflecting on Peace Practice Program 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. Confronting War also challenged the peacebuilding field to consider effects on “Peace Writ Large” and to be more explicit regarding underlying theories of change and program strategies.  The lessons have been tested, refined and expanded through work in Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East, Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, South America and South, and Southeast Asia.

Learning Questions

  • What works—and what doesn’t work—in peacebuilding?
  • How do multiple peace efforts “add up” to sustainable peace in specific conflict-affected contexts?
  • How can we measure progress in peacebuilding and evaluate both short- and long-term processes?
  • How can systems thinking tools and concepts support more relevant and effective peacebuilding practice?

New collaborative learning initiative on the 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.

For more information, please contact Anita Ernstorfer, Director of Advisory Services,

Applying Systems Thinking and Systems Analysis to Peacebuilding

When might a systems analysis be particularly helpful for you?

  • The ‘problems’ you face are chronic and have resisted repeated efforts to resolve it.
  • The ‘problems’ have produced multiple, and often contrasting, analyses regarding its sources – and ‘solutions.’
  • Short term and ‘quick fix’ solutions, for example in relation to specific sectors, have failed.
  • Many actors are involved in addressing the issue but struggle to coordinate efforts and/or to achieve greater collective impact.

Benefits of a systems approach for strategy and program development:

  • Conflict-sensitive design & implementation: how to ensure and measure that interventions ‘do no harm’?
  • Relevant program strategies: what are the relationships with conflict dynamics? Development of sound theories of change.
  • Helps identify leverage points for change and entry points for programming: how can we influence the system?
  • Scenario development: how will different scenarios impact conflict dynamics? What are implications for your strategy?

Read more about CDA’s approach to Conflict Systems Analysis: Benefits and Practical Application

Key Publications

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


Peter Woodrow, Executive Director [email]
Isabella Jean, Director of Collaborative Learning and Evaluation [email]
Anita Ernstorfer, Director of Advisory Services [email]
Kiely Barnard-Webster, Program Manager [email]
Sweta Velpillay, Senior Advisor – Conflict Sensitivity and Peacebuilding Effectiveness [email]
Michelle Garred, Senior Advisor – Conflict Sensitivity and Peacebuilding Effectiveness [email]

From our partners

“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.” – Gema Redondo, Regional Team Leader, Global Crisis Response Capacity Development Programme, European Union

“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

Learning Engagements