Action Learning for Conflict Analysis (ALCA): The Micro-Dynamics of Humanitarian Knowledge Production in Protracted Crises

Principal Investigators: Oliver Jütersonke and Janine Bressmer

Project Partners: Masayo Kondo Rossier – Preparedness Partnerships and Initiatives, Emergency Services Branch, OCHA Geneva

Project Description

Conflict analysis is essential to local and international, public and private practitioner communities working in fragile settings. Humanitarians are increasingly discussing their role in protracted crises – one that goes beyond the traditional understanding of their work as one that swiftly responds to an acute emergency. Standard tools such as “post-conflict and post-disaster needs assessments” continue to be pursued, but with growing recognition of their limited applicability and pertinence to make sense of rapidly evolving field dynamics. Connections and institutional overlaps between humanitarian, development and peacebuilding practitioners operating in conflict-related environments remain poorly captured, as do organizational understandings of what context-sensitive programming entails.

OCHA’s pilot “action learning initiative” hosted by the CCDP in 2016 highlighted the inadequacies of many standard conflict analysis tools (including context and stakeholder mappings) for effectively informing operational procedures, decision-making processes, and day-to-day interactions with affected populations and local communities, as well as with staff members, government representatives and partner organizations. By taking into account the reality of field practitioners, the ALCA project hopes to address these shortcomings by developing and disseminating flexible conflict-analysis techniques and tools for the humanitarian and peacebuilding sectors.

In terms of deliverables, the project seeks to develop succinct course materials for training modules, based on the pedagogical field study of how practitioners engage in problem-solving and how they can provide dynamic and different tools through which multiple solutions can be offered to a particular (and often repeated) problem. These materials will go beyond enumerating “solutions” to pre-conceived “problems” by instead offering checklists of guiding questions and back-of-the-envelope analytical tools that field practitioners can employ.

In late 2017, Jütersonke and Bressmer undertook data collection at OCHA’s Colombia head office in Bogotá. The mission entailed an extensive document review of existing tools and practices, as well as a series of interviews and group discussions with partner organizations across the humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding sectors. The preliminary findings were presented at the 2018 Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Week in Geneva. A second field mission to Mindanao (the Philippines) is scheduled for early 2019.