Adapt's Podcast episodes interview leading thinkers to unpack methodologies and learning that can enable the betterment of peacebuilding policy and practice. Our interviews explore five hypothetical ingredients for sustainable peacebuilding in conflicted societies: local agency, adaptation, systemic seeing and doing, scalability, and inclusion. This page also includes guest episodes from the Peacebuilding Podcast, which covers a wider selection of process interventions to bridge the divides in conflicted societies.

Emma Proud: Mainstreaming Adaptive Management into Mercy Crops

“In complexity every program struggles… In the programs where decision-making is sat near the information (sources), that’s where they were most successful”

Mercy Corps is a leading global humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding organisation. They work in country contexts that have undergone, or have been undergoing, various forms of economic, environmental, social, and political instabilities. Like Adapt Peacebuilding, Mercy Corps is putting adaptive management at the heart of their work, with a focus on their people management function. Adaptive management – defined as “an intentional approach to making decisions and adjustments in response to new information and changes in context” – helps Mercy Corps to be more effective in complex, unpredictable environments.

This week we speak with the leader of this work - Emma Proud – Mercy Corps’ Director of Organizational Agility. She is working on ways to increase organisational agility so all 400 Mercy Corps programmes are enabled and encouraged to be adaptive.

Highlights from our conversation include a discussion of:

  1. Mercy Corp’s training models that incorporate neuroscience research and SCARF – a brain-based model for collaborating and learning with others,

  2. Their “Adapt Scan” process, which identifies factors that enable and inhibit adaptive actions, and

  3. Deep learning from their Navigating Complexity and Adapting Aid research processes.

We also share experiences about USAID’s collaborate, learn, adapt initiative, which has an adaptive management podcast and program management tools that you should check out.

Read it here

Duncan Green on Adaptive Management and how it applies to Development and Peacebuilding

Adaptive Management (AM) is a form of organizing work in which the focus is on learning from the context and adapting your approach to the given context as you learn about it and as the context changes. This is different from the typical approach that establishes a plan at the beginning.

This is important because many practitioners are interested in “complexity.” When working in a given conflict, often practitioners don’t have a lot of information about the needs of the community, the variables, the changes that will occur, etc. A predetermined plan won’t usually work. Practitioners should be “responsibly experimental” and learn as they try new solutions to conflict.

Some of the key elements of this conversation were:

  • Donors- how to work with concerns around accountability; risk adverse-- issues with taking on an adaptive approach that changes and securing long term partnerships with donors who trust in the process

  • Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning and how this changes in adaptive management, which is a more flexible approach

  • Rules of thumb for when to use adaptive management approach and when the traditional style is appropriate

  • The importance of telling good stories

  • Establishing relationships (both vertical and horizontal) in the context you’re working in

  • Larger shift in peacebuilding and development systems to adopt adaptive management approaches

Check out Duncan’s blog: From Poverty to Power  

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The Peacebuilding Podcast Episode 33: Dr. Catherine Barnes on Overcoming our Addiction to Coercion

“Within crisis, there is opportunity…If only we can sit together, and listen and hear each other, in this place that we share together, that we create together, that we are of and from together”

Join us in conversation with Catherine Barnes. I first met Catherine at a dialog and facilitation retreat in rural Myanmar. I was struck by the degree of presence that she bought to her work, mentoring and accompanying an emerging generation of positive change makers in that fascinating yet troubled country. Catherine is a rare breed of scholar practitioner. Her work is deeply grounded in decades of field work across thirty countries, while her research and writing covering topics of facilitation, dialog, activism, and social justice blends a high level of insight with accessibility. She is faculty member of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University and freelance peace researcher and practitioner, particularly as concerns dialog and facilitation techniques across conflict divides.

Her comments in this episode are so relevant to our times. She describes our “addiction to coercion”, whereby we – internationally and domestically – try to compel others to accept our goals and points of view rather than expending our efforts and resources on collaborative activity for the greater good. She relates this to the increasing polarisation that we are experiencing domestically and internationally, and how we have in the past, and can in the future, find ways back through dialog and collaborative action.

Catherine demystifies peace processes that are designed and implemented to end civil wars, drawing on examples from Tajikistan, Sierra Leone, Bosnia and elsewhere, and tracing the path from elite lead peace agreements to more the more inclusive peace processes of modern times. This conversation takes place against a backdrop of the increasing complexity of local and global forces that shape civil war conflicts, which renews calls that peace needs to be grown organically from within an affected society, not implanted in the form of blueprints from outsiders.

Take a listen, and check out the show notes for a detailed summary and Catherine’s bio. This episode is a guest contribution to The Peacebuilding Podcast.

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The Peacebuilding Podcast Episode 32: Graeme Simpson on What Peacebuilding can Learn from the Creative Energy of Young People

“Youth are forging peacebuilding alternatives that we need to harness, embrace, give space to, and recognize. (There are) a creative set of alternatives that are being driven from below that young people are shaping and defining”.

Join us in conversation with Graeme Simpson, US Director of the non-profit Interpeace, and lead author of the United Nation’s flagship Progress Report on Youth, Peace, and Security. The highly participatory process of producing this work has been as important as some of its findings. Hundreds of youth across dozens of countries were involved in developing recommendations that underscore, among many other things, how young people are creative sources of peace, confronting their stereotype as primary perpetrators of violence. The young people that Graeme engages with question the efforts of peacebuilding institutions to “bring youth to the table”, highlighting a marginalisation and mistrust of governments and global institutions that has huge and troubling implications, yet at the same time inspires us with alternative, creative forms of organising and peacebuilding in a modern world.

Graeme’s work shines a light on a glaring disconnect between the “integrated lived experience of people caught up in violent conflict”, and our national and global policies and organisations, which divide peace and conflict up into illusionary stages and distinct themes that are intimately connected on the ground. As with Graeme’s earlier work founding and leading South Africa’s Centre for Violence and Reconciliation, our approaches to supporting people and societies need to be better integrated and less siloed according to outsider priorities, and better at “listening down” to affected communities so we can “talk up” to donors and policy makers. We end by touching upon gender, where Graeme challenges the stereotype of the girl as a victim and the boy with the gun.

Graeme is an articulate and passionate speaker whose policy work is deeply grounded in the lived experience of people experiencing conflict and forging peace.

You can review a detailed version of the show notes with full links and a copy of his biography here. This episode is a guest contribution to The Peacebuilding Podcast.

Read it here