Course: Strategic Peacebuilding

Instructor: Jayne Docherty

Course Description: 

This course will explore the challenges and dilemmas of peacebuilding in contemporary protracted and violent conflict. It will focus on learning how to:

  1. understand the meaning of being strategic in the midst of conflict, 
  2. develop a strategic plan for coordinating the peacebuilding work of multiple actors and stakeholders, and 
  3. create and sustain a network of partners for building peace in a specific location. We will work primarily from the perspective of nongovernmental practitioners, but with careful attention to coordinating NGO work with Track I official actors (national, international, and regional), funding agencies, community based organizations (CBOs) and others working to promote peace.

Participants will interact with current approaches, frameworks and theories, and become familiar with the language and terminology used at different levels of peacebuilding. 

The course also focuses on practical skills. Participants will work in teams to create strategic peacebuilding plans for their own organization, community, or region. They will also practice workplace skills such as preparing one-page briefings, reports and/or talking points about a conflict, and responding to and using information from the media to prepare an advisory memo to a funding organization. The second half of the course will be a simulated strategic peacebuilding exercise in which all class participants will take a role in the conflict and work together to produce a plan of action for building peace. 

Course Objectives:

This course is intended to help participants:

  1. Understand the frameworks, theories and practices being used to guide peacebuilding activities.
  2. Learn to identify and understand the various actors working on peacebuilding in a specific conflict situation.
  3. Think strategically about integrating (horizontally and vertically) the efforts of actors using different frameworks for peacebuilding in order to promote “peace writ large”.
  4. To bridge the gap between in-class simulation and real cases of conflict, working under pressures or time, fund, politics, etc.
  5. To reflect on peace practice as related to oneself, ones organizations, and one’s context.
  6. Build an action agenda for a specific organization or network in a conflict situation and plan ways to integrate that action agenda with the action agenda of other actors

Before Class Meets:

1. Complete the Introductory Readings (provided to registered participants)
2. Prepare a story (2-4 pages long) about your work in response to a conflict in your community or country. 

For examples of stories, see:

Be sure your story includes: 

  • THE SETTING: Where are you working? This includes geography (city, country, etc.) but also sector or organization (example: Are you working with community level conflicts in a neighborhood? Are you working with conflicts between two or more organizations? Are you working on national level political conflicts?)
  • THE STORY OF THE CONFLICT: What is this conflict about? Why are people in conflict?
  • YOUR IDENTITY: Who are you in relation to this conflict and how did you get involved? 
  • THE ACTION: What kind of work did you do? 
  • YOUR ALLIES AND RIVALS: What did others do? Who else was working in the area on this conflict? Who did you work with? Whose work “got in the way” of your work? What other groups do you wish you could have worked with better? NOTE: This point is often not included in the People Building Peace II stories at the link above. But we must have this information for our class so please do not forget to include it. 


This is a broad overview of the schedule. More details will be provided before the class begins.

First Third of the Course: 

We will become familiar with the concepts of:

  • Strategy, tactics, and operations as a way of describing our peacebuilding work
  • “Peace writ large” 
  • Organizational fields – specifically the organizational field of peacebuilding
  • Emergent systems
  • Political opportunity structures and ripeness
  • The Curle model (and variations on the Curle model) as a tool for thinking strategically about our work
  • Core competencies for peacebuilding 

We will use activities, games, role-plays and cases to practice:

  • Thinking strategically about peacebuilding work
  • Reflecting on stories about our own peacebuilding work
  • Mapping the organizational field of peacebuilding as it exists in our own locations

Second Third of the Course:

We will become familiar with concepts related to:

  • Design, monitoring and evaluation (learning) of peacebuilding programs
  • Theories of change
  • Worldviews and peacebuilding paradigms

We will use activities, games, role-plays and cases to practice:

  • Identifying theories of change in specific peacebuilding programs
  • Identifying opportunities and challenges for coordinating peacebuilding activities
  • Using design, monitoring, evaluation and learning to improve peacebuilding programs

The Last Third of the Course:

We will become familiar with the concepts of:

  • Social capital
  • Networks (inclusive, exclusive and “networks of effective action”)
  • Isomorphic pressures
  • Vertical and horizontal integration of peacebuilding actors

We will use an extended simulation to practice:

  • Thinking strategically about a specific conflict challenge
  • Forming horizontal and vertical networks to focus on “peace writ large”
  • Developing organizational plans for action that coordinate with the actions of others

We will conclude the course by:

  • Reflecting on lessons that we might take back to our own organizations and communities
  • Preparing for the after-course work of essay writing


The items with * will be included in your reading packet. Other readings are recommended but not required.

  1. Anderson, Mary B. and Lara Olson (2003). Confronting War: Critical Lessons for Peace Practitioners. Cambridge, MA: The Collaborative for Development Action, Inc. Students will read Section II (chapters 6 and 7). Available on line at:
  2. Bush, Kenneth, “A Measure of Peace: Peace and Conflict Impact Assessment (PCIA) of Development Projects in Conflict Zones”, Working Paper No. 1, The Peacebuilding and Reconstruction Program Initiative, International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, 1998. Available at:  Students will focus on Part I and Part II.
  3. Church, Cheyanne and Mark Rogers (2006). Designing for Results: Integrating Monitoring and Evaluation in Conflict Transformation Programs. Washington, DC: Search for Common Ground. Students will read Chapter 2 on theories of change. Full text at:
  4. *DiMaggio, Paul J. (1991). Constructing an organizational field as a professional project: US art museums, 1920-1940. In The New Institutionalism in Organizational Analysis. Chicago: University of Chicago Press (pp. 267-292).
  5. Fitzduff, Mari (September 2006). Core Competencies for Graduate Programs in Coexistence and Conflict Work – Can We Agree? In Leadership Notes from Project on Leadership and Building State Capacity. Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center. Available at:
  6. Francis, Diana (2010). From Pacification to Peacebuilding: A Call for Global Transformation. Pluto Press. 2010. - Students will be given a few chapters from this book. The whole book is recommended.
  7. Gladwell, Malcolm (2000,2002). The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. New York: Back Bay.  Recommended not required.
  8. Lederach, John Paul; Neufeldt, Reina, and Culbertson, Hal (2007). Reflective Peacebuilding: A Planning, Monitoring and Learning Toolkit. South Bend, Indiana: The Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and Catholic Relief Services. Available on line at: Students should download the entire manual for use in class.
  9. Nan, Susan Allen (2008). Conflict Resolution in a Network Society. International Negotiation, 13: pp. 111–131. 
  10. Ricigliano, Robert (2003). Networks of Effective Action: Implementing an Integrated Approach to Peacebuilding. Security Dialogue, 34(4), pp. 445-462. 
  11. Schirch, Lisa (2005). The Little Book of Strategic Peacebuilding. Intercourse, PA: Good Books. Recommended, not required. Available also in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian language - translated by the Peace Academy Foundation. 
  12. Simmon, P.J. (1998). Learning to Live with NGOs. Foreign Policy, 112 (Autumn), pp. 82-96.