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New publication series sheds light on CMI’s focus on Policy and Learning

Published on Wednesday, 27 June 2018

CMI’s publication “Critical Friend: an Innovation in Evaluation and Learning for Peacebuilding” is now out. This is the first issue of our new Policy and Learning publication series. It presents CMI’s experimentation with the Critical Friend evaluation and learning methodology.

CMI aims to improve the international practice of peacemaking by sharing lessons learned from its own experience with colleagues working in this field, so that together we can better address the challenges of today’s complex conflicts. For this reason, Policy and Learning was chosen to be one of the focus areas of CMI’s new Global Programme for 2018-2021.

“Critical Friend: an Innovation in Evaluation and Learning for Peacebuilding kicks off CMI’s new series of Policy and Learning publications. In the publication, we share our experience of using the Critical Friend evaluation and learning methodology.

Today, organizations working on conflicts act in highly complex operational environments. We found that the Critical Friend methodology can meet the needs of these organizations: it can foster learning that improve practice. It is an evaluation and learning methodology that can enhance the real-time organizational learning.

“In retrospect, it may have been brave, even risky, of the organization to open its doors to a stranger at such a critical time of strategic reflection and design”, CMI’s Executive Director Tuija Talvitie notes in the foreword of the publication. “Yet, it paid off in abundance”, she adds.

CMI adapted the Critical Friend methodology when evaluating its 2014-2016 Global Programme. “Critical Friend: an Innovation in Evaluation and Learning for Peacebuilding” showcases our experience of the methodology and presents lessons we learned from the evaluation process. We see our experimentation with the Critical Friend methodology to be relevant and valuable to peers in this field.

Investing in building trust between the organization and the Critical Friend is crucial to the success of the whole evaluation process. This can be highly time-consuming and demanding for both the organization and the Critical Friend, which makes the process very intensive. However, when trust building is successful, the Critical Friend can at the same time be a trusted insider, and an independent outsider operating within the organization. The organization can benefit from a valuable evaluator who can support organization’s own self-image and ambitions with constructive criticism, and bring fresh new ideas from the outside from an independent position.

CMI benefitted greatly from the Critical Friend evaluation process. As a result of this shared period of accelerated learning, CMI has a stronger programme, more responsive strategy, and improved organizational structure and staffing. “We all need feedback to grow”, Tuija Talvitie notes.

You can read the publication here.