In 2013, International Alert (IA) started a new phase in its long-running Economy & Conflict work in the South Caucasus. It was a good moment to bring in a “critical friend” to scrutinize the team’s thinking and analysis. Previous evaluations had been largely driven by an accountability agenda and rarely worked well as vehicles for genuine reflection and learning. We sought and found an alternative: piloting one of RPP’s Program Quality Assessments (PQA) promised something different.
In October 2013, Isabella Jean from CDA joined us to launch the PQA process, joining a series of project events in the Caucasus.
At the close of a hectic week of events, discussions with IA staff, and interviews with program partners, one representative (and previously skeptical!) program partner was convinced. “This is useful!” the participant exclaimed, and referring to Isabella’s emphasis on learning and reflection, “She’s got it!”
At a follow-up visit by Isabella in March 2014, PQA findings informed our discussions and we began using our new Reflecting on Peace Practice (RPP) tools for strategic planning. All of us agreed that we had gained much from the PQA. It has particularly enriched our approaches to conflict-sensitivity (our initiative spans several inter-connected conflicts), and the RPP matrix helped us to refine and articulate the specific change our work aims to achieve. As one colleague put it with a smile, “we have been good at fixing the car, sharing the driving, and figuring out who gets the petrol. But the RPP matrix exercise has really helped us to refine and validate our destination.”