IDS, in partnership with Adapt Peacebuilding and Myanmar’s Relief Action Network for IDP’s and Refugees (RANIR), has won a United States Government award for its participatory action research work in Kachin, a highly conflict-affected region of northern Myanmar.
Winning case, Seeing in systems, working in networks, describes a process of community-led peacebuilding in 2015-16, which positively impacted more than 17,000 people in the midst of a dangerous and unpredictable civil war.
During 2015-16 local communities designed and implemented activities to protect and strengthen communities against the worst effects of the war between the Myanmar Army and the Kachin Independence Army, while seeking resolutions to the conflict that would incorporate community concerns. These activities included life-saving mine risk education, multiple efforts to combat the youth drug epidemic, initiatives to mitigate conflict between host communities and tens of thousands of internally displaced people, and activities to strengthen dialog and accountability between local communities and peace process leaders.
Patrick Kum Jaa Lee, the local Programme Manager, said:
“What made their efforts more remarkable was the conditions under which they achieved it, with no international access for international organisations and risky, unpredictable security conditions. To think of the firsts that they achieved under those conditions – mine risk education, changes to public policy, dialog forums involving thousands, all reaching close to twenty thousand during an ongoing war – it’s incredible.”
Building on rich experience of participatory methodologies
Winners of the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Collaborate; Learn; Adapt (CLA) Case Competition prize are recognized for their success in employing an explicitly learning-centered and adaptive approach to programme implementation.
IDS and Adapt Peacebuilding have been pioneering systems and complexity approaches in peacebuilding and development for more than a decade. In this case, the programme employed a Systematic Action Research methodology, developed by IDS Professor Danny Burns, designed specifically for locally led change in a highly complex environment and ideally suited to CLA.
Systemic Action Research (SAR) is method of programme management in international development settings which puts local community members (rather than political or other leaders) in charge of their own development priorities. It is one of a range of adaptive management approaches to implementing international development programs, which are increasingly seen as a necessary alternative to traditional, pre-planned interventions in societies affected by conflict or other forms of instability.
In a paper reflecting on the project and methodology, Danny Burns and Stephen Gray comment:
“Bottom-up peacebuilding processes must contend with a complex and dynamic array of factors and stakeholders, with diverse interests, roles and locations. Systemic Action Research provides one means of rendering this complexity comprehensible and identifying novel peacebuilding potential. It also encourages local peacebuilders to act in a more adaptive and networked way with allies that are often not like-situated or like-minded, and make use of social resources that can amplify their impact or entrench positive changes.”
In addition to developing the methodology, Burns was lead technical advisor, co-developed the programme strategy, and facilitated training and learning processes for the Relief Action Network for IDP and refugees (RANIR), the local partner that implemented the programme.
Why is the CLA Case Competition important?
The CLA Case Competition captures real-life case studies of USAID staff and implementing partners using a CLA approach for organizational learning and better development outcomes. This case study contributes to the evidence base of what works and what doesn’t in adaptive management.