An idea that had been emerging for years, especially from European donors, had its roots in the “theory of change.” More recently it has been referred to as Outcome/Impact Orientation, or OIO. The idea is for organizations to be accountable for their work by assuring that their projects create real change in the lives of people and are not limited to just carrying out a training, handing out seeds, building houses or whatever the project may be. While this may seem like outside pressure from donors, when it is done well and includes the people who are the “beneficiaries,” it is a real learning opportunity for all involved.
One organization decided to help a community that had a high incidence of illnesses build latrines. Returning some time later, they found the latrines almost as clean as when they built them. When asked why, the community replied that they were saving them for visitors because they were so nice.
The same institution had established a scholarship program for youth from poor families with the idea that they would be able to help their communities. When I helped them to do goal setting with the students, one way to involve the stakeholders, most students said they hoped to eventually get good jobs overseas and earn more. So the project had to be reassessed.
Another organization was teaching organic agriculture to small farmers. Who would not benefit from such a great idea? In this case, the farmers, themselves. We helped them discover that most of the farmers, as tenant farmers, had to sell most of their produce back to the landowner. The project implementers then realized that to achieve the desired change, they had to deal with the land issue as well.
In 2014, I left MAGI to work with the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI—mpiasia.net), a training center for peacebuilders from the Asia-Pacific and around the world. I was happy to join MPI—the director, Chris Vertucci, was with me in the Philippines in the 1980s.
MPI asked me to bring my MAGI assessment experience. MPI has a peacebuilding training program for indigenous leaders funded by Bread for the World Germany. Not surprisingly, they expect reports from MPI to include the same kind of “change analysis.” We have actually integrated change assessment processes internally so that all the staff, whether in administration or finance or with one of the projects, think not just about the task at hand but how what we do will make a difference. Even the tagline for our 2016 Annual Peacebuilding Training was “make change happen.”
A week ago, participating in a “theory of change” workshop with other peacebuilding organizations forced me to think about the question, “What changes do we want to see when we work for peace?” For me, the pillars of positive peace outlined by Institute for Economics and Peace (visionofhumanity.org) are the best measure of the change we hope to bring, including indicators such as a well-functioning government, equitable distribution of wealth, and acceptance of the rights of others. This is the change I hope to see.