Making Sense of Turbulent Contexts

Local Perspectives on Large-Scale Conflicts

Understanding conflict is critical to aid planning, yet large-scope analyses are dominated all too often by external ‘experts’. Local voices and local knowledge, which are essential to understanding the true causes of conflict, are not adequately reflected in the far-reaching policies and strategies that define what aid agencies do and how they do it in conflict-affected settings. In response, the Making Sense of Turbulent Contexts (MSTC) framework has been designed to bring local actors and participatory methodology into country-level conflict analysis.

Participatory approaches can help to overcome many of the common limitations associated with more traditional forms of conflict analysis. For example, participatory methodologies can help to:

  • improve overall quality of conflict analysis by including a broad range of actors in the analysis and shedding new light on ‘standard’ narratives about a conflict
  • increase sustainability of recommendations by ensuring that findings are ‘owned’ by local people, making action steps more realistic and likely to be implemented
  • improve inter-agency coordination and collective impact by bringing agencies together to develop common understanding of conflict and shared action plans
  • model political inclusion by bringing groups together across conflict fault lines in an atmosphere of equitable collaboration
  • strengthen the capacity of civil society, empowering them to become more resilient agents of change

This book has been written by World Vision, in collaboration with Saferworld. It draws upon more than ten years’ experience of conducting MSTC analyses in more than 30 countries. It pulls out key opportunities, challenges and lessons learned associated with designing and implementing participatory conflict analysis at the national level. It aims to encourage the use of participatory conflict analysis tools amongst the wider development community, and offers MSTC as one tool that can help to encourage collaboration among aid and civil society organisations operating in conflict-affected contexts.

Download Making Sense of Turbulent Contexts

Read Tim Midgley's comment piece on an alternative approach to conflict analysis

“My hope is that this important and timely contribution to the field of conflict analysis will spark new discussions in the international community about participatory conflict analysis. People on the receiving end of the international community’s assistance deserve nothing less than a consistent, rigorous, listening posture and a willingness to apply these perspectives into our programming.”

Betty Bigombe (Senior Director for Fragility, Conflict and Violence, World Bank)