Systems and Structures of Peacebuilding

The United Nation’s Fast Facts on Poverty show that six million children die before their fifth birthday due to malnutrition, 2.7 billon people survive on less than two dollars per day, over 114 million children do not get a basic education and every 3.6 seconds a person dies of starvation.[1]  Now, factor in global financial uncertainty, climate change, and ethnic and religious conflicts worldwide, and you gain a slightly better understanding of the highly complex nature of problems facing the international community.  While this may cause many to be pessimistic, those like Jim Goldgeier, Dean of the School of International Service at American University, have already found the answer to these problems.  As Goldgeier writes in a recent Foreign Policy Magazine article, “the knowledge, theories and solutions required to address them [international problems] are unlikely to come solely, or even primarily, from political scientists. They are issues that require input from scholars and practitioners working across a range of disciplines, including economists, scientists, anthropologists, and lawyers.”[2]  Multidisciplinary and multi-sectorial partnerships between business, education, health, government, NGOs, and civil society are imperative if the international community is to be able to alleviate the myriad of problems it faces.     

Complex problems not only face the international community but local communities throughout the world.  Even within the United States, the world’s wealthiest country there remains high rates of violence, hunger, homelessness and unemployment in many urban and rural areas.  No longer can individual actors or organizations be expected to act unilaterally to fix problems.

Currently unilateral solutions contrived from ‘silo-only’ thinking from narrow perspectives are failing to address the entirety and complexity of the world’s problems. ‘Silo-only’ thinking is when individuals and organizations only focus on what is directly within their realm of understanding.  Silo thinking is okay, as expertise is located within the silos, it is only a problem when silos do not stop to look and see how their actions affect others.  The problem with this ‘silo-only’ thinking is its individualistic nature. This individualism prohibits the creation of any idea, organization, or project that requires input more than one silo or individual.  If an environment is full of silos and ‘silo-only’ thinking, that environment will be unable to create communities, families, or teams.  This ‘silo only’ thinking and ‘silo only’ systems will be unable to create multi-disciplinary or interdisciplinary education initiatives or any initiative that requires multiple partners to fulfill its mission.  Therefore, if it is agreed that problems facing communities require partnership across sectors, ‘silo-only’ thinking must end in all environments and communities. 

The word and idea of community often serves to denote a state or organized society, people of a distinct district, or group with shared interests, and/or a group with a common sense of identity and characteristics.  These communities, especially from a Tocquevillian perspective, are seen as a ‘viable unit for social action and much of modern social sciences even views local communities as a cure for the ills of contemporary society.’[3]  If a group of actors wishes to create a community, and if that community will engage in social action ‘silo-only’ thinking will not be a viable option in this creation process.  The need for communities to partner across silos is more evident throughout the world than ever.

If these communities, ones that are absent of ‘silo-only’ thinking, are allowed to form they will then be able to work towards common goals and values; such as ending violence, finding shelter for its citizens, educating its children, or ending drug abuse.  Bringing together silos around common goals and values and allocating the resources to do so is at the heart of the field of peacebuilding. 

Chic Dambach, former President of the Alliance for Peacebuilding defined peacebuilding as

"Peacebuilding is the set of initiatives by diverse actors in government and civil society to address the root causes of violence and protect civilians before, during, and after violent conflict. Peacebuilders use communication, negotiation, and mediation instead of belligerence and violence to resolve conflicts. Effective peacebuilding is multi-faceted and adapted to each conflict environment. There is no one path to peace, but pathways are available in every conflict environment. Peacebuilders help belligerents find a path that will enable them to resolve their differences without bloodshed.  The ultimate objective of peacebuilding is to reduce and eliminate the frequency and severity of violent conflict."[4]

Peacebuilders bring diverse actors together to create communities, organizations, and families to set goals that can be agreed upon by all actors that can be sustained in a given environment.[5] Once the root of the conflicts are addressed the coalition of partners need to find a nonviolent goal to work towards.  This pairing of diverse actors with nonviolent goals is the creation of peace.  These coalitions put an end ‘silo-only’ thinking. Peacebuilders play a critical role in helping set the narrative for the peacebuilding process and help realign resources to complete this goal.  

The first and most crucial step in creating communities that work towards peace is properly identifying the silos and the ‘silo-only’ thinking that is plaguing the community.  By using peacebuilding circle models, which will be shown in several models below, ‘silo-only’ thinking can be identified and broken down.  Once the silos are identified and systems are repositioned, it will be essential to look at how to ensure new structures prevent ‘silo-only’ thinking from reemerging.  Collective impact theory will be offered and expanded to help sustain peacebuilding efforts that move communities away from ‘silo-only’ thinking.

Why ‘Silo-Only’ Thinking

‘Silo-only’ thinking according to Gotterbarn is when individuals or organizations look only at the satisfactory completion of their given task.  A business looks to make profits, a school looks to educate, and a government looks to represent the people who elected them.  The completion of the task assigned is like winning an athletic event, if you accomplish the goal that was set you win. The problem with this narrow thinking, especially as it is easy to comprehend, allows silos to ignore how they are a part of a large interconnected system. [6]  The profits of the business may come at the expense of others in a community, take for example any major oil company whose billions of profits a year come at the expense of the environment.

Unfortunately, even with ‘silo-only’ thinking being recognized as detrimental, Gillian Tett explains, “The bad news is that the curse of silos will not be easy to beat. For one bizarre paradox of the modern age is that while technology is integrating the world in some senses (say, via the internet), it is simultaneously creating fragmentation too (with people in one silo tending to only talk to each other, even on the internet.) And as innovation speeds up, this is creating a plethora of activities that are only understood by "experts" in a silo - be that in finance, or numerous other fields.”[7]

When this type of thinking dominates communities the mobility of resources is hindered.  When silos fail to properly share resources and knowledge, innovation is stifled.[8]  Bold moves should be made to help to move away from ‘silo-only’ thinking not only externally but within silos.  Internal divisions can be just as dangerous within a given silo as it can be across silos.[9]

Now more than ever are peacebuilders needed to help encourage an end to ‘silo-only’ thinking.  The silos are okay to have, as they foster expertise, yet ‘silo-only’ thinking needs to end.  Peacebuilders can serve as the link between the silos, helping maximize resources and encourage partnerships to end violence and begin to fully address the needs of a community. 

The Challenge of Ending Technical Leadership and Creating Adaptive Bridges

The world, organizations, and individuals are now more than ever have the potential to interconnect and break out of their ‘silo-only’ thinking.  Economies converge and exchange at world markets, cultures interact and exchange thoughts and ideas through music and movies, and direct communication through the Internet allows for instant communication between many nations.  The hierarchical structures that have dominated previous generations, not by choice but by lack of other option, are giving way to horizontal, cross-sectorial organization that allows for greater flexibility and space for collective initiatives.  To build relationships between silos however is often tricky, as each organization has its own culture, way of doing things, and desires to keep the status quo.  A commitment and action to breaking down ‘silo-only’ thinking requires a change to daily habits, use of resources, loyalties, and traditional ways of thinking.  This change may be understood and desired by organizations and individuals within a silo, however there will be the natural inclination to stay at home in the known silos. 

Improving Community Empowerment

One way that peacebuilders have tried to encourage a break from traditional ‘silo-only’ thinking is by empowering civil society members to take charge themselves.  Community empowerment models have been used in the past to help communities empower themselves to move out of silos, to share common goals and to act together for social change.  Community empowerment looks to increase the communication and role of all classes and races that are committed to the common goals.[10]  Community empowerment reaches across silos and groups, looking to create shared perceptions.  When silos develop a shared vision they no longer act exclusively out of individual self-interest, but coordinate their actions for mutual benefit.  This is a strong break from ‘silo-only’ thinking.[11]

Community empowerment models allow for citizens to feel that they can engage in activities that seem protected by a given silo.  The parent who wants to be more involved in the education of their child may not feel that they can enter into the education silo and be helpful as they have no jurisdiction or access to resources within that silo.  At the heart of community empowerment is the creation of positive self-worth and confidence.  With citizens and organizations feeling confident that they can reach out of their comfort zone ‘silo-only’ thinking begins to break down.[12] 

The community empowerment model is contingent on several factors 1) The nature of people and their ability to develop and become educated 2) the nature of education in the empowerment process 3) the importance of personal associations, formed by happenstance, for example, neighborhoods, communities, and families 4) the relationship between such personal associations and macro system structures, that is, the political, economic, and social systems 5) the nature and use of power itself within the empowerment process, and the relationship between power and empowerment.  While community empowerment is a strong model in helping break down ‘silo-only’ thinking, the model is contingent on power sharing, trusted relationships, and an active and engaged civil society.[13]

Often the programs and partnerships created through community empowerment end up being feel good exercises, and do not lead to long-term structural changes.  These community empowerment groups are coalitions of citizens from all sectors and levels, making it much harder to keep people respectful of one another or keep people from flashing their other credentials.  Executives tend not to like to give up power and resources to someone from outside their silo, especially if it is just the ‘average citizen.’  The following introduces a model, collective impact, that expands community empowerment, however focuses on connecting peers across silos with measurement tools that help show the results of collaboration.

Starting Framework: Collective Impact

Collective impact models look to orient individuals and organizations out of their ‘silo-only’ mentalities and into cross-sectorial partnerships to address community problems.  Collective impact according to Kania and Kramer is “the commitment of a group of important actors from different sectors (silos) to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem.” [14]  Kania and Kramer explain how collective impact differs from most collaborations, “collective impact initiatives involve a centralized infrastructure, a dedicated staff, and a structured process that leads to a common agenda, shared measurements, continuous communication, and mutually reinforcing activities among all participants.”  In addition to just orienting the silos toward a central collective group and goal, it looks to build the long-term structure that will support the continued effort to end ‘silo-only’ thinking.[15]

Shape up Somerville used the collective impact effort to create the structure to reduce and prevent childhood obesity amongst elementary school children in Somerville, Massachusetts.   The effort was led by Christina Economos, an associate professor at Tufts University’s Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, and United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.  The initiative engaged the government officials, educators, businesses, nonprofits, and citizens in collectively defining wellness and weight gain prevention practices for school children in the area.  The silos oriented themselves around the coalescing word of ‘community’ with the common goal of ‘healthy children.’[16]

Schools agreed to offer healthier foods, teach nutrition, and promote physical activity. Local restaurants received a certification if they served low-fat, high nutritional food. The city organized a farmers’ market and provided healthy lifestyle incentives such as reduced-price gym memberships for city employees. Even sidewalks were modified and crosswalks repainted to encourage more children to walk to school. The result was a statistically significant decrease in body mass index among the community’s young children between 2002 and 2005.  The key to this collective impact model was the proper identification of each of the organizations that could help offer healthy foods, orienting them towards the center and away from ‘silo-only’ thinking.[17]

Other collective impact projects can be seen with organizations such as Strive in Cincinnati, Ohio and their efforts to bring together private and corporate foundations, city government officials, school district representatives, the presidents of local universities and colleges, and the directors of hundreds of education-related nonprofits to address lacking student attainment levels and improve education across greater Cincinnati.[18]

At the heart of collective impact efforts were their focus on not creating new programs or attempting to convince donors to spend more money yet instead getting each partnering organization to think through a carefully structured process that hinged on a single set of goals.[19]  By strategically thinking through the move out of ‘silo-only’ thinking towards partnerships, organizations and individuals were much more accepting of the new model.

From the Stanford Social Innovation Review six key components to successful collective impact projects are given:[20]

1) Common Agenda: Groups need to have a common goal and the same definition of the problem.  All too often small differences in goals, objectives, and even the language used to describe an issue can splinter collaborative efforts.  Common ground must be discussed, debated, and resolved before any large-scale initiative can take off.[21] 

2) Shared Measurement Systems: Once goals and objectives are clearly defined they must be operationalized and measured.  Collective Impact relies on collecting data and measuring results.  Not only does the data allow for the overall effectiveness of the work to be measured, the data helps keep groups aligned and holds each partner accountable.  Furthermore, the data provides instant feedback throughout, allowing for participants to learn from each other’s successes and failures.

3) Mutually Reinforcing Activities: With the rare opportunity to have so many diverse groups working on a given social issue it is important that participants are encouraged to undertake the specific set of activities at which it excels at, while supporting and coordinating with the actions of others.  By designing and identifying how groups can support each other, collective impact projects do not simply become exhaustive feel good partnerships that pretend to be anything but coordinated isolated impact efforts. 

4) Continuous Communication: Communication within collective impact efforts helps build trust between the organizations and individuals involved.  As participants are asked to move out of their traditional isolated silos, they need to be assured that other partners will not flee or simply pull out of the collective impact effort when funding elsewhere presents itself.  The continuous communication also allows for groups to instantaneously share data and lessons learned.  Communication needs to be structured and between the consistent organizational representatives, sending new staff to each meeting will not suffice.

5) Backbone Support Organizations: Often collaborative efforts are created and managed by the partnering organizations.  This puts extra stress on limited resources, therefore collective impact efforts require a separate organization and staff with the ability to organize and manage large cross-sectorial efforts.  Kania explains the role of the backbone and peacebuilding organization is to “plan, manage, and support the initiative through ongoing facilitation, technology, and communication support, data collection and reporting, and handling the myriad logistical and administrative details needed for the initiative to function smoothly.”[22]

6) Timing: Timing is no easy matter in creating a collective impact project.  According to the peacebuilder John Paul Lederach peacebuilding or collective impact processes work in phases; 2-6 months should be given towards short range planning, 1-2 years to develop the partnerships and the move away from ‘silo-only’ thinking, and up to a decade to see large impact.[23]  Without both a short-term vision and a commitment to long-term change, the collective impact process will fail to create long-term community change.

The following will expand and offer additional aspects of understanding, implementing and leading collective impact models.  Collective impact models will also serve to better explain peacebuilding and how to successfully establish peacebuilding projects.  Following these additional and expanded explanations that build on collective impact theory, several examples will be given using a ‘peacebuilding circle’ model that helps visually identify groups and individuals when heading out of ‘silo-only’ thinking and into a collective impact project.  The identification of individuals and organizations is key to properly implementing a collective impact model, whether internationally, regionally, or locally.

Challenging Traditional Leadership and Moving Towards Collective Impact

Traditionally leadership has been focused within silos, where people feel safe through their expertise knowledge.  Through their expertise knowledge leaders within silos have often been effective in maximizing efficiency and productivity within their given silos.  This orientation, one that relies heavily on hierarchical management, has been successful in addressing technical problems through ‘silo-only’ thinking.  Technical problems lend themselves to being solved quickly by experts within a given silo. Silos are able to solve many problems quickly as they have highly focused skills.  Communities and environments are full of experts and leaders within silos who have been effective in creating programs to address technical problems. 

The downside to focusing solely on technical problem solving and its reliance on experts and structured procedures is its inability to solve adaptive problems.  Adaptive problems are difficult to identify, as they are complex in nature and do not lend themselves to be solved by any one silo or expert.[24]  Adaptive problems cut across fields and lend themselves to be best addressed by leaders and individuals not stuck in a given silo. 

For way of example, a young 3rd grader is falling behind in class.  His reading levels and math levels are far below the expectations of the school and district.  Looking at the problem from a technical orientation the principal of the school may begin sending the student to extra tutoring hours.  After a month of extra tutoring the student fails to show any improvement in test scores.  From an adaptive orientation perspective one can see the true stresses on the young pupil. From an adaptive perspective one would discover the student’s father was recently arrested and put in jail and the boy’s mother without a job has had to move the family to a grandparent’s home.  The young pupil’s poor reading and math scores cannot be attributed to the number of hours studying but to a stressful home life.  The technical fix offered by the education silo fails to improve the reading and math scores as it does not holistically address the problem. An adaptive framework however identifies the interrelated problem between education, health, and economics that are playing into the pupil’s school life.

In order to solve adaptive problems, one must have the capacity to “intelligently adapt their behavior, both short-term and long-term in response to the changing needs of its problem-solving situation.”[25]  This by no means an easy task as most individuals are use to seeing things in technical one-dimensional terms, especially as Western education systems teach to that fashion.  Adaptive leaders, or peacebuilders, must have the capacity to break from this thinking and instead think about the multi-dimensional relationships among concepts and situations.[26] As this is a move away from technical problem solving approaches of only managing material objects and services, “adaptive leadership” will need to face the challenge of getting others to follow.[27]

As peacebuilders emerge and look to address problems through an adaptive framework there will be the natural tendency to revert to previous technical problem solving mindsets and techniques.  Heifetz and Linsky in their book Leadership on the Line explain that the peacebuilder must lead within an adaptive problem-solving framework, “in mobilizing adaptive work, you have to engage people in adjusting their unrealistic expectations, rather than try to satisfy them as if the situation were amenable primarily to a technical remedy.  The peacebuilder not only has to ask the trust of others to move out of silos, but must trust themselves in taking a leadership role.[28]  As Heiftetz and Linsky write “It is no wonder that when the myriad opportunities to exercise leadership call, you often hesitate.  Anyone who has stepped out on the line, leading part or all of an organization, a community, or a family know the personal and professional vulnerabilities.”[29]

The peacebuilder has to counteract individuals and organizations exaggerated dependency on their own silo.  The process to end this dependency will require an extraordinary level of presence, time, and artful communication” by the peacebuilder.[30] Communicating across silos is highly complex and should be considered analogous to speaking five or six different languages.  One could imagine how much time and effort it would take to become fluent in Spanish, French, English, Mandarin, and Russian.  The same could be said for being able to speak with economists, philosophers, doctors, government officials, and lawyers.  As the problems cut across silos someone needs to lead the communication across these silos.  Some silos will be willing and understanding of the need to move away from ‘silo-only’ thinking, while others will be uncommitted and take time to convince.

Psychological Starting Points

One area in which collective impact theory is lacking is giving clear explanation to how an adaptive leader or peacebuilder will need to work with people from a psychological perspective.  When working one on one with leaders, the peacebuilder not only has to navigate an individual’s personal allegiance to a particular organization to their personal values and own commitments.  For example, the mayor of a city is not only accountable to the people of the community and his or her job but to their own family, religion, and personal beliefs.  Therefore, it is essential that peacebuilders look at how they will work with individuals, and how others will personally respond to breaking from their traditional ways of thinking.  The starting point of how the peacebuilder sees the world and how they orient themselves to it plays a large role in what one will think is possible between individuals and organizations.  This orientation dictates how one would approach individual and community change, the core of human functioning.  The peacebuilder needs to choose his or her own perspective on how pathology (or problems) enter into individuals and communities and how it may be removed.

A general theory of human functioning and pathology that works well for peacebuilding is one from the experience-centered therapy field.[31] In relation to experiential therapy and how individuals think Pos, Greenberg, and Elliot write:

“Two ways of knowing are possible.  We can know conceptually (knowledge by description) and we can know by experience (knowledge by acquaintance).  The distinction between these two ways of knowing, first made by St. Augustine and later emphasized in the writings of William James and Bertrand Russell, is essential for understanding the fundamental orientation of experiential therapy.  Experiential therapies are approaches to therapy that emphasize the importance of promoting and using knowing by experience when facilitating client change.”[32]

Through an experiential starting point one would accept that individuals are aware organisms, self reflective creative agents who are actively and dynamically involved in the construction of the world around them.  This posits that individuals learn and are most knowledgeable through their lived experiences, rather than from their ideas or beliefs.  Anyone working to help change an individual should help that individual reflect and focus on their experiences and the sensations, perceptions, emotions, and implicit meaning that is involved in that process.

Pos, Greenberg and Elliot emphasize the need for awareness, process and dialogue in relation to experiential approaches.  These three tenets should be at the core of any attempt to move an individual or organization out of their ‘silo-only’ thinking.  The peacebuilder can help an individual become aware of the world around them through a process of dialogue with the individual.  Through shared dialogue and a supportive, safe, and respectful relationship both the peacebuilder and ‘silo’ can explore each of their experiences.  The experiential process hinges on genuine relationships between the peacebuilder and individual within a silo. The peacebuilder does not serve as an expert on experience, as each individual is the only expert on what they have experienced.[33] 

In addition to helping create awareness through a process that includes dialogue, the peacebuilder should offer positive regard to those they work with.  At the heart of building peace should be love, respect, and care for all involved.

Experiential therapy posits there is an inherent challenge in self-organization for all individuals, as there is a constant battle between self-actualization or growth (autonomy) and the need to maintain positive regard from others (affiliation).  Therefore when working with individuals in settings that are trying encourage community building, one must be constantly aware of the tension between wanting to maintain individual autonomy and affiliation with others.  With some, these opposing forces may not be opposing and will find no difficulty finding the balance between the autonomy and affiliation.  Others may be too focused on themselves or the group and be unaware of the delicate balance between the two.

The individual autonomy of individuals will come under direct attack when a peacebuilder’s direct focus is to change the relationship of the individual to a family, community or group.  Every change to the affiliation will require an equal response to the autonomy of the individual.  If the change in the group or what a person feels toward the affiliation is not directly congruent with what an individual wants to experience, there will be anxiety and a desire to move away from the affiliation and back towards ‘silo-only’ thinking.  The goal of the peacebuilder is to help an individual avoid these anxieties while trying to create greater awareness in the experience of the self in relation to the environment in which it is surrounded. 

Once a peacebuilder is able to help an individual find balance between autonomy and affiliation they need to help create a structure that creates a feedback loop between the two.  Experiences in relation to both self and group will continually take place, a proper structure will help advance this process. 
Several strategies and tools can help guide a peacebuilder to help create this delicate balance between individuals self-perceptions and their surrounding environment:[34]

  • Using relationship conditions to create an environment conducive to experiential processing and providing emotional coaching that models approach, valuing, and acceptance of emotion
  • Using particular language modes to recreate emotional stimuli in awareness, as well as to help clients symbolize, regulate, and express experience
  • Directing clients’ attentional resources to the edges of awareness
  • Using evocative empathy to activate an alive experience of tacit meanings on the periphery of awareness
  • Using technical interventions to activate emotional experience to help clients access and express alternative adaptive emotional resources

These strategies need to be strategically used and sequenced depending on when intervention initially takes place.  Throughout the process of building peace, peacebuilders will be required to constantly move between strategies.  If done properly, and if an individual is receptive to the process, less and less intervention will be required, ultimately giving the individual the tools to adjust their own individual autonomous needs and their need to be a part of a group.

The Challenge of Collaboration

When silos are willing and see the value of breaking their ‘silo-only’ thinking peacebuilders and organizations can help them with the collaborative process of collective impact processes.  Collective impact talks about the need of collaboration but insufficiently explains the challenges of collaboration within the theory.  With limited resources and time individuals and companies can work across silos to leverage each partner’s strengths.  A low-income school may want to offer its students free or reduced lunches but not have the resources to do so.  The businesswoman looking to help the community can partner with the school by providing financial support; both partners through collaboration are able to meet the needs of a given community that individually would not be possible.  Collaborations, if properly designed, can maximize resources and offer services that no one individual or organization could accomplish.

At the heart of collective impact and peacebuilding efforts is this maximization of resources in order to create anew.  Collaboration however is often oversimplified and often not enough resources and time are allocated to simply managing the collaborations between partners.  What seemed like a good collaboration all too often can exhaust resources and time of crucial managers. In addition, executives trying to manage too many partnerships that are disconnected can face burnout and be less encouraged to enter into future collaborations that would actually be effective. Therefore it is essential that there is enough attention and resources given to a backbone and peacebuilding organizations to manage cross silo partnerships.[35]

Over collaboration, according to Morten Hanson in the Harvard Business Review, happens when people collaborate on the wrong things or when collaboration endeavors get tied down in endless conversations and unnecessary bureaucratic processes.  It should not be a surprise that the CEO of a hospital does not know how best to partner with the local principal, as the CEO of the hospital has no training or background in education.  Therefore, when partnerships are undertaken large amounts of time and energy need to be dedicated to properly identifying resources between partners and establishing how best to maximize the collaborative efforts.  These efforts not only include the sharing of resources but how the partners will communicate, hold each other accountable, and how they will measure if their efforts are fruitful. 

A Closer Look at Peacebuilding Organizations

Several different groups or individuals can serve as peacebuilders in facilitating and working between the partners in order to maximize resources.  The partnerships can be managed through several different models such as the formation of a new nonprofit, a local government, a steering committee, shared personal between multiple organizations or an existing nonprofit.  In terms of this paper these backbone organizations will be considered peacebuilding organizations.

The United Way of Rockford, Illinois in 2011 partnered with Banner of Truth Church to create a neighborhood resource center to serve the local community.  The two organizations together served as the backbone between local businesses, schools, health care providers, the government, service providers and local citizens to identify the needs and resources of each organization.  Enormous staff time was needed during the six-month process in order to identify and match resources with the needs of the local population.  This coordinated effort however helped maximize resources, identified key needs of the local population, and built not only working relationships but personal relationships between silos.[36]

Backbone organizations, or peacebuilding organizations, have often been overlooked as an essential need for community organizing.  Their remains little understanding of what peacebuilding organizations actually do among those who would most benefit from their services.  The closest organizations historically that have mirrored a true community peacebuilding organization, especially in offering collective services to a population, are infrastructure organizations such as the American Hospital Association, the Association of Colleges, and the American Association of Museums.  These infrastructure organizations did not emerge until the 1970s and it was not until the organization Independent Sector was established in 1980 was there an umbrella organization that worked to link service providers together.  The Independent Sector, the largest backbone organization for nonprofits and foundations, has members such as the YMCA, Catholic Services, United Way of America, Ford Foundation, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.[37]

The Challenge of a Being a Peacebuildnig Organization

The hardest battle that these backbone, infrastructure, and peacebuilding organizations face is showing their value and building a strong member base.  The peacebuilding organization, as it works to support the entire community, regardless of membership, often faces a significant free rider problem.[38]  With inadequate financial resources upfront, as well as the problem of being able to show their benefit early, peacebuilding organizations often fail to gain traction and grow membership. In order to help counter this problem peacebuilding organizations can look for a few wealthy members to pay disproportionate amounts which allows others to pay less until the organization’s value has been established.[39]  In addition, peacebuilding organizations can pressure organizations into joining by releasing their membership lists to a broad audience, encouraging non-members to not get left behind their colleagues in their sector.  The non-members can be offered general information in the effort to entice them to join the partnership.

Peacebuilding Services

In addition to helping manage the communication between partners and the move out of ‘silo-only’ thinking, peacebuilding organizations can offer a range of services such as:

  • Advocacy: This can be done on behalf of the collaborative, making sure that the concerns of all are folded into any policy created.
  • Research: Peacebuilding organizations can help partner the collaborative with researchers and universities, providing both the collaborative with research based findings as well as offering academics case studies to find the effectiveness of cross sectorial partnerships.
  • Education: Education and management development can be offered to organizations, including specialized programs that look to expand the knowledge of what other silos are doing within an environment.
  • Management and Training Support: Management assistance can be given to organizations with the goal of improving organizational effectiveness, i.e. helping strengthen the board of directors and how to do their own advocacy.  The peacebuilding organization can also help silos internally position themselves in order to more effectively work across silos both externally and internally.
  • Professional Development: Support can be given by enhancing the professional practices of organizations as well as develop a code of ethics and accountability between the groups.
  • Provision of Information Resources: Information can be distributed that makes grant makers and grant seekers aware of one another.  Information can also be distributed to the larger population of an area to make them aware of the coalitions’ efforts.[40]
  • Financial Intermediaries:  Peacebuilding organizations can serve to raise funds from individuals, foundations and other donors and redistribute the funds to the coalition in order to support programs and publications.[41]

These peacebuilding organizations serve an important role in helping silos move out of their ‘silo-only’ thinking.  Collaborations can be effective and maximize resources, especially in a time of limited resources.  While peacebuilding organizations are growing in number and are showing their effectiveness they still need to be given more secure funding.  This problem can be alleviated if peacebuilding organizations can find better measurement tools to show their effectiveness while being able to articulate that measured value to the community. 



[1] Millennium Project. "Fast Facts: The Faces of Poverty." UN Development Group.

[2] Goldgeier, James. "Undisciplined." In,  Foreign Policy Jan/Feb 2012, (2012).

[3] Sichling, Florian. "Community." Social Work and Society 6, no. 1 (2008).

[4] Dambach, Chic. "What Is Peacebuilding?" Alliance for Peacebuilding,

[5] Interview with Chic Dambach, March 15, 2013.

[6] Gotterbarn, Don. "Professional Trust and Privacy: The Dangers of Silo Thinking." ACM Inroads 3, no. 2 (2012): 4-5.

[7] Gillian, Tett. "Insight: Dangers of Silo Thinking." U6

[8] Maitland, Roger. "Why Everyone Should See the Bigger Picture." People Management 12, no. 16 (2006): 77.

[9] Guthridge, Matthew, B. Komm Asmus, and Lawson Emily. "The People Problem in Talent Management." The McKinsey Quarterly, 2006, 6.

[10] Novek, Eleanor. "Communication and Community Empowerment." Peace Review 11, no. 1 (1999): 61-68.

[11] Ibid

[12] Torre, Dorothy Ann. "Empowerment: Structured Conceptualization and Instrument Development (Power, Questionnaire Construction, Multidimensional Scaling)." 1986. 21

[13] Ibid, 21.

[14] Kania, John, and Mark Kramer. "Collective Impact." Stanford Social Innovation Review 9, no. 1 (2011): 36-41.

[15] Ibid

[16] Ibid

[17] Kania, John, and Mark Kramer. "Collective Impact." Stanford Social Innovation Review 9, no. 1 (2011): 36-41.

[18] Interview with Jeff Edmondson, February 23, 2013.

[19] Anonymous. "Roundtable on Collective Impact." Stanford Social Innovation Review 10, no. 4 (2012): 25.

[20] Kania, John, and Mark Kramer. "Collective Impact." Stanford Social Innovation Review 9, no. 1 (2011): 36-41. 

[21] Boyce, Brian. "Collective Impact: Aligning Organizational Efforts for Broader Social Change." Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 113, no. 4 (2013): 495-97.

[22] Kania, John, and Mark Kramer. "Collective Impact." Stanford Social Innovation Review 9, no. 1 (2011): 36-41.

[23] Lederach, John Paul. Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies.  Washington, D.C: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1997.

[24] Easterling, Doug, and Judith L. Millesen. "Diversifying Civic Leadership: What It Takes to Move from “New Faces” to Adaptive Problem Solving." National Civic Review 101, no. 2 (2012): 20-26. 

[25] Turner, Roy M. Adaptive Reasoning for Real-World Problems: A Schema-Based Approach.  Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1994.

[26] Kilpatrick, Jeremy, Jane Swafford, and Inc ebrary. Helping Children Learn Mathematics.  Washington, DC.

[27] Morningside, M.C. "The Difference between Technical and Adaptive Issues." In,  Yahoo Voices (2011).

[28] Heifetz, Ronald A., and Martin Linsky. Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading.  Boston, Mass: Harvard Business School Press, 2002.

[29] Ibid, 2.

[30] Ibid, 15.

[31] Lebow, Jay. 2008. Twenty-first century psychotherapies: Contemporary approaches to theory and practice. Hoboken, N.J: John Wiley & Sons. 93.

[32] Ibid, 83.

[33] Ibid, 81.

[34] Ibid, 103.

[35] Salamon, Lester M. The State of Nonprofit America.  Washington, D.C: Brookings Institution Press, 2012.

[36] Interview with John Evans, July 15, 2011.

[37] Salamon, 427.

[38] Ibid, 426.

[39] Ibid, 426.

[40] Ibid, 431.

[41] Ibid