How Can We Do Better? How Can We Do More?

Thursday, December 15, 2016TOPICS: Faculty and Staff

How Can We Do Better? - 2016 Kroc School Magazine
begin quoteThe most important part is not an end-of-program activity but a particular mindset. This mindset is defined by a commitment to continuous reflection grounded in evidence, continuous learning and continuous improvement in the programs we implement.

An occupational hazard of being a program evaluator is having to ask difficult questions. Why did your program do this? Why did you think it would work? What impact is it having? And the most important one of all: How could you do it better? My background is in program design, monitoring and evaluation, so these questions come naturally to me.

Before coming to the University of San Diego, I spent eight years at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in Washington, D.C., asking these questions in order to improve that institute’s ability to monitor, evaluate and learn from its peacebuilding programs. I often said my job was simple: help USIP do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t. Since July 1, when I joined the Kroc School’s Institute for Peace and Justice (IPJ) as the new executive director, I have been asking these questions of my new institute.

Many people have a misconception about program evaluation: that it consists of evaluations designed to hold program managers accountable — evaluations that ask questions like: Did your program do what you said it would? What did it achieve? Was it cost-effective? While these kinds of questions are important, in my view they are not the most important part of program evaluation. The most important part is not an end-of-program activity but a particular mindset. This mindset is defined by a commitment to continuous reflection grounded in evidence, continuous learning and continuous improvement in the programs we implement. All three of these must go together. It does no good to reflect and learn if we don’t use that learning to improve programs. And it does no good to try to improve programs if those changes are not based on reflection and learning.

What this mindset demands in the field of peacebuilding is a marrying of the heart and the head. It requires that we be inspired by our Women PeaceMakers while always asking how we can support them in a more effective way. How can the program reach more places and have more impact? It means being thankful for, and humbled by, our peacebuilding partners doing the hard work of building their society every day in Nepal. But also always asking: What is the best role we can play? What is the best use of our scarce resources in Nepal? It means feeling grateful to be able to invite amazing individuals each year to share their stories with the university and the broader San Diego community as part of our Distinguished Lecture Series. And also asking what we could be doing differently. Are there new formats, new technologies, new partners we could be using to allow those stories to reach a far greater audience?

When I was given the privilege of becoming the executive director of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, expectations of me were clear: grow the stature of the institute, expand the impact of the institute. To grow the stature, we need to expand the impact. To expand the impact, we will constantly be asking ourselves those hard questions. I invite everyone who cares about the Institute for Peace and Justice to keep asking me those difficult, but important questions (although maybe not early on a Monday or late on a Friday). The opportunity the institute has been given by Mrs. Joan B. Kroc is almost without parallel in the peacebuilding field. Her endowment has given us great flexibility to choose for ourselves what will have the greatest impact in the world. The only way we can truly honor her generous gift is to constantly be asking ourselves: How can we do better? How can we do more?

 

ANDREW BLUM, PHD
is executive director of the Kroc School’s Institute for Peace and Justice, and formerly the vice president for planning, learning and evaluation at the U.S. Institute of Peace. He has research and practitioner experience in a wide variety of contexts around the world, and recently led efforts to establish RESOLVE (Researching Solutions to Violent Extremism), a global network of local researchers focused on identifying effective strategies to address violent extremism.

Read this article and discover other articles of Kroc Peace Magazine 2016 on ISSUU 

 

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