Complexity Thinking for Peacebuilding Practice and Evaluation


This book covers the design, evaluation, and learning for international interventions aiming to promote peace. More specifically, it reconceptualises this space by critically analysing mainstream approaches – presenting both conceptual and empirical content. This volume offers a variety of original and insightful contributions to the debates grappling with the adoption of complexity thinking.

Insights from Complexity Thinking for Peacebuilding Practice and Evaluationaddresses the core dilemma that practitioners have to confront: how to function in situations that are fast changing and complex, when equipped with tools designed for neither? How do we reconcile the tension between the use of linear causal logic and the dynamic political transitions that interventions are meant to assist?

Readers will be given a rare opportunity to superimpose the latest conceptual innovations with the latest case study applications and from a diverse spectrum of organisational vantage points. This provides the myriad practitioners and consultants in this space with invaluable insights as to how to improve their trade craft, while ensuring policy makers and the accompanying research/academic industry have clearer guidance and innovative thinking. This edited volume provides critically innovative offerings for the audiences that make up this broad area’s practitioners, researchers/academics/educators, and consultants, as well as policy makers.


With many years of experience spent at the most senior ranks of international military operations, I can vouch that what the writers of this book say about the limitations of linear models of planning and evaluation is true. We have been searching for systematic ways of analysing complexity, and I recommend this work as a solid step forward towards an interesting new paradigm”. (General Sir Richard Shirreff, former Deputy Strategic Allied Command for Europe, NATO, Managing Director, Strategia)

“Understanding complex, dynamic environments is difficult. But even more challenging is understanding whether, and if so, how an intervention has had a real and sustainable impact on that environment. This book is a great collection of advice on how peacebuilders can act, learn, and adapt in our most difficult contexts.”  (Robert Ricigliano, Systems and Complexity Coach for The Omidyar Group)

“There is no doubt that evaluating and analysing international peacebuilding is challenging and difficult. But based on my own experience, I am convinced that in order to become better we have to learn from previous successes and failures. I find this book highly relevant, and the variety of perspectives put forward by the authors encouraging.” (Erik Solheim, former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Norway, and Chairman of the OECD Development Aid Committee)

“This book shows us how to see peacebuilding as it is, with all its complications, contradictions and complexities. Such insight is rare and important, and will be of value to both scholars and practitioners alike.” (Gordon Peake, Development Policy Centre, Australian National University)

“While complexity theory resonates with many peacebuilding practitioners who recognise the limits of traditional approaches to setting goals and assessing performance in highly dynamic settings, it is rarely seen as a practical alternative. This book goes beyond critique, with examples of alternative approaches to learning and evaluation that are fundamentally more contextualised and realistic.” (Dr. Catriona Gourlay, Executive Director, PeaceNexus Foundation)

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