The project seeks to contribute to the ongoing peace and reconciliation efforts in Colombia using a three-component strategy that addresses: the prevention of forced recruitment of at risk children and youth, and reintegration of former child soldiers (component I); strengthened capacity of young people in marginalized communities to act as agents of positive change in their direct environments (component II); and support to reconciliation efforts in the country through building historical memory of conflict affected communities using arts and storytelling (component III). The current phase builds on the initial model by adding two major training components.
The evaluation covered the 2019-2020 phase of the project and included a review of documents and reports from the previous phase, Pintando el Futuro (2016-2018). Both phases were funded by the German Institute for Foreign Relations (ifa) zivik and implemented with one or several local partners, including Ciudad Don Bosco (CDB), the Fundación Escuelas de Paz (FEP), the Corporación Dimensión Génesis (CDG) and other partners.
The evaluation assessed the relevance, coherence, effectiveness, efficiency, anticipated impact, and sustainability of the project to strengthen the resilience and conflict prevention capacities of at-risk youth, families, and marginalized communities in Colombia, and its contribution to ongoing peace and reconciliation efforts in the country.
The evaluation used a mixed methods approach combining different data collection methods. Three surveys were deployed to a sample of 423 participants, and 97 responses were received. Field work was carried out in the Department of Antioquia for primary data collection with beneficiaries at the community level and participants in the MT and TOT. Additional triangulation methods were applied as well, including in-depth interviews, non-participant observation, and key informant interviews with representatives from implementing partners and master organizations. Additionally, the evaluator designed and facilitated an outcome mapping workshop to harvest results and lessons as identified by the Colombia and Geneva project teams. Information from this activity also served to contrast findings and inform the reconstructed theory of change (ToC).
Limitations include the following:
- The COVID-19-restrictions limited the possibility to extend the number of in person activities and travel to other sub-regions in the project’s geographical scope
- The project was still under implementation and the information received was not entirely summative.
- The evaluator reconstructed a ToC using the information available and assumptions identified in the project narrative, but this requires further revision and validation.
Key Evaluation Findings
Relevance. The project’s focus on capacity building of participants to act as agents of change in peace building and reconciliation is relevant and aligned with UNITAR’s Strategic Framework 2018-2021 and in particular Strategic Objective 1: “Promote peace and just and inclusive societies” and specifically to the SO 1.1 “Support institutions and individuals to contribute meaningfully to sustainable peace”.
The scope and objectives are well aligned with SDG 16 “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels” and relevant to targets 16.1 and 16.2 which aim at “significantly reduce all forms of violence and related deaths” and “end abuse, exploitation, trafficking, and all forms of violence against children”.
The project makes significant contributions to the country’s current peacebuilding efforts in three aspects: a) Pillar 8 of the Territorial Approach to Peace which promotes localized peace efforts that are participatory, inclusive and rooted in every-day peace practices; b) the selection of territories in the geographical scope targets many of the areas prioritized by the Government in the implementation of the Territorial Development Plans; and c) contributions to the Peace Education Policy by strengthening teachers and educators capacities to advance peace.
Survey respondents appreciated the quality, adaptability and creativity of training materials and the tools provided during workshops which, according to participants, contributed to the multiplication process. However, the evaluation identified the need to incorporate a do no harm approach when dealing with sensitive aspects of conflict-related trauma that emerge during trainings, in addition to gender, age, and culturally sensitive perspectives.
The evaluation found the project to be gender targeted and partially gender responsive. The project was targeted in terms of incorporating clear indicators and measurement tools to guarantee equal participation and access to materials of female and male participants. It was partially gender responsive as there were components of the training materials addressing gender inclusion and awareness against forms of discrimination and GBV. However, these were found as lacking conceptual depth and not visibly impacting participants’ (MT-TOT) ability to apply the dimensions and applications of the gender perspective to their contexts. Additionally, there were no specific budget allocations identified for gender-related components or activities.
Coherence. The synergies created with the UN Verification Mission and other donors and international organizations supported the achievement of objectives, especially in reaching out former combatants, preventing forced recruitment and aiding local reintegration and reconciliation efforts. Aside from this, other synergies identified were achieved through implementing partner organizations’ networks, which are also relevant as a finding in terms of the value added by partners to extend the multiplying factor of trainings and propel sustainability beyond the project cycle using their existing platforms and relations with other donors/actors.
Effectiveness. Overall, the project has been effective at producing the intended results for each specific objective (SO). The quantitative targets established for each indicator have been either met or exceeded, except for the SO III where the COVID-19 pandemic prompted changes that hindered the scope of activities at the community level, including the development of the historical memory exhibitions.
The methodology is also identified as highly experiential and consistent with a participatory and inclusive approach that enables all beneficiary groups as active parts of the trainings and multiplications, respectively, and not merely recipients of knowledge. The methodological quality, technical soundness and clear presentation of content in the toolboxes has aided multiplications and is seen as an enabling factor.
In general, participants described the experience with the trainings as “transformative” and enabling deeper reflections around their individual role in peacebuilding. Most participants in the interviews assert experiencing a shift in their pre-conceived ideas of the others.
Various factors were identified as enabling or inhibiting the multiplication process: 1) the level of support from the master organization to the master trainer for the multiplications with peers; 2) capacity of both master and master organization to mobilize participants within their beneficiary groups; 3) the perceived necessity and alignment that the master organization about the skills and knowledge transferred to the master trainer(s); 4) field of work/expertise of the master trainer, as it was observable the complementarity of skills acquired to those he/she already has leveraged their capacity to replicate as well as their confidence.
The trainings and methodologies applied were found to be important tools in the strengthening of youth leadership capacity and empowerment as agents of peace in their communities.
The project’s monitoring system in place does not have a clear mechanism to measure effects of youth participation in trainings, including the age variable. What occurs after the trainings and the impact that youth can have in their social environments using the knowledge and tools relies highly on the opportunity to access the platforms that leverage youth participation and capacity as agents of change by providing longer-term support, additional skill strengthening and connections with peers and other social agents.
COVID-19 has had a significant impact in the application of trainings and methodologies. The restrictions in place prompted changes in the implementation plan to adapt the project’s technical and operational aspects to this reality.
Efficiency. Since the project is ongoing, there was no summative analysis conducted on cost-effectiveness. Financial reports were not available for review since the reporting period had not yet lapsed. The evaluation nonetheless found products from partner organizations to be delivered timely and in compliance with requirements, except as mentioned for some of the community activities not yet completed due to COVID-19. The investment in partnerships seems efficient in terms of greatly supporting the broader geographical scope and the connections with communities and extended networks at the local level, including rural outreach. The donor expressed satisfaction with overall performance, timeliness and articulation of the response during COVID-19 by UNITAR and CDB.
Sustainability. The sustainability of the intervention moving forward has various considerations. First, there is observed capacity of implementing partners, specially CDB, to independently implement the trainings, as evidenced by the broad use and adoption for their activities at large. CDB has a long-standing partnership with UNITAR and is a strong organization with many action lines and seemingly using the content of the trainings and knowledge beyond the scope of work with UNITAR and diverse audiences. This is indicative of increased capacity and ownership. Fundación Escuelas de Paz (FEP), on the other hand, has broad experience in the topics of the trainings and has received and applied the tools as complementary to their acumen of methods and expertise. Corporación Dimensión Génesis (CDG) shows great commitment to sustain implementation beyond the project cycle, but with less experience and operational capacity.
The evaluation did not find an overall, clear exit strategy. The project builds on the assumption that increased capacity of organizations and persons through the trainings leads to sustained individual change and organizational ownership. The evaluation also found that schools are important vehicles to ensure sustainability of results, especially from the adaptations and spread used by teachers in their curricula and classroom activities.
Anticipated Impact. The evaluation also assessed the project for anticipated impacts, with the understanding that the project is ongoing. Five aggregated dimensions of results were identified in which the changes and uses of knowledge/tools by participants could support longer-term impacts in positive conflict transformation, youth agency and local reconciliation:
a) a far-reaching sense of empathy developed among participants as a practical skill that is expressed in emotional, cognitive and actionable forms of nurturing relations in the community and decreasing stigmatization of marginalized groups, especially former combatants;
b) enhanced conflict resolution skills of participants, especially youth using the gamified tool in C-II and self-awareness of their role in the construction of non-violent communities that is at the level of every-day interactions;
c) strengthened capacities and agency of master trainers and TOT from educational institutions, with anticipated impacts in peace education strategies applied to curricula and classroom environments and the strengthened leadership of educators in peace building;
d) changes observed in historical individual and collective narratives of violent conflict, past grievances and its underpinning causes; and
e) evolving capacities and networks of participant local organizations as peace infrastructures that have the potential to drive collective action and strengthen a fractured social fabric.
While most changes observed occur at the individual level, the use given to the tools and knowledge was found to leverage and strengthen other capacities within organizations, schools and families.
Based on the above findings, the evaluation issued a set of eight recommendations to inform future possible phases of the project:
- R1. Further develop the project’s gender transformative perspective based on a context-sensitive gender-analysis and make the approach visible and measurable within the scope of capacities transferred to master trainers and TOT.
- R2. Revise and conduct a participatory validation of the theory of change, aiming at a stronger correlation between the pathways as interlinked for the achievement of the overall goal.
- R3. Identify avenues for direct coordination and institutional capacity building activities with local and national government institutions in the education system, such as Secretaries of Education and local schools.
- R4. Evaluate the need for a separate guide for facilitators that further develops the conceptual frameworks within each component and provides do no harm guidelines in core aspects such as conflict-sensitive facilitation, PFA, and security protocols or content adaptations in case of potential security risks for participants in vulnerable territories.
- R5. Identify ex ante the potential synergies with other donors, such as UN organizations, the European Union and bilateral donors.
- R6. Develop and deliver an online webinar to explain the contents and use of the virtual materials for trainings to master trainers.
- R7. Conduct a SWOT assessment of the performance of master organizations and evaluate the need for complementary capacity strengthening that further enables the organizations to advance their community work in their areas of influence using the trainings and toolboxes.
- R8. To increase the impact of the project in the empowerment of youth as peace agents, identify the existing local networks, organizations, programmes or platforms that catalyse collective action for this age group.
- L1. Strengthening networks of local organizations and agents of change is essential to achieving sustainable impact in individual and communities that leads to peaceful conflict resolution and reconciliation.
- L2. Master trainers make a difference as key drivers of knowledge and change in peace and reconciliation if given the adequate tools and incentives.
- L3. The potential role of youth as agents in peace and reconciliation is enhanced if there is a combination of dynamic capacity building approaches, experiential learning in context and linkages to networks that catalyze leadership.
- L4. Partnerships and alliances with other donors and development actors working with youth and communities in conflict-afflicted areas contribute to broaden outreach of beneficiaries, extend geographical scope and increase strategic value of activities by articulating other stakeholders locally.
- L5. Working with youth in rural and urban settings requires adapted materials and methods that help put knowledge in context and considers the differences across audiences in terms of gender, age, culture and social norms.
- L6. Rural educational institutions and school professionals (teachers, social workers) have a key role as liaisons in connecting the MT and master organizations with youth and their families in vulnerable communities.
- L7. Virtual and distance learning mechanisms are effective if seen as complementary to the in-person methods, and if enough guidance is provided to the trainees and organizations to apply best practices in facilitation to make this as closely experiential, relational and sensitive as the face-to-face methods.