At the planning stage, specific problems relevant to the context and the community/society are identified, the causes are analysed and efficient solutions are designed. The result of the planning can be a project or program with an overall goal, specific objectives, activities, outcomes and indicators, which is implemented for dealing with identified problems and needs.

The planning stage is crucial in the project cycle and often lack of invested time and energy in this process results in less effective projects. All interviewees from three countries outlined that the planning stage has to be participatory, transparent and flexible. Transparent and flexible planning ensures that everyone has equal access to the resources, which are essential for project development and any necessary adjustments can take place due to changed context. Participatory planning means that team members and any other relevant stakehold- ers should have equal access to the information and opportunity to participate and influence all stages of project development.

A project planned with a culture of peace approach will:

Needs assessment is a key part of the planning stage. In order to develop relevant objectives and activities, the existing problem and needs of the communities where a need is assessed have to be adequately understood. Some classic methods for conducting a needs assessment are through surveys, interviews, focus groups, previous experience, feedback from different groups, desk research and analyses of existing resources. In order to make a needs assessment participatory and thereby incorporate culture of peace into this process, the researchers suggest that organizers facilitate a platform and space where the community can gather, discuss the context, needs and priorities.

In order to ensure that this platform and space is continuous, the community should have access to the space of the organization and/or other spaces where the organization has access to meet and organize themselves whenever they feel the need. This is in line with a culture of peace mode of planning a project where transformation of economic and socio-political structures can take place by providing access to resources to communities. Once the ideas are gathered, the project team can design the project based on priorities identified by the community and present the project back to the community for feedback.

Several practices ensure trust building between project implementers and the community. In most cases, the best approach is to build trust with the community before actually implementing a program. Furthermore, trust building can be seen as an ongoing process of willingness to stay open, honest and transparent. In order to do this, first of all, it is imperative that there is a relevant number of members from the community as part of theproject team from the start. If the project is very small, at least one staff should be a member of the community where the project will be implemented;if the project is larger then consider having 25-55 percent of staff coming from the relevant communities.

The purpose of this is not to tokenize one or several persons as responsible for being a bridge between community members and other project implementers, but to ensure that everyone shares the responsibility to understand the specific context, understand the needs of the community and stay on track with priorities as they come up. Second of all, transparent and clear communication between project team and the community is another way to ensure trust during all phases of the project. Transparent communication does not mean giving away sensitive information about project implementers, participants and communities where the work is done, which may cause harm.

Rather transparent communication implies communicating about the organization implementing a project, the resources available for implementation and donors supporting said project, the project design and activities planned, methodology and limitations keeping in mind confidentiality and respect for sensitive information. Third, it is important that the implementing organization does not have an approach that is only funding based, so that once the project ends, there are alternative means for continuing to collaborate with the community and providing opportunities for the community to become involved in other projects. Often times, having team members who are part of the community is one way of ensuring this type of sustainability and continued collaboration.

The project team responsible for designing the project is responsible for listening and learning the different sensitivities of a particular context, community and approaches for implementing a project with said community. This implies learning cultural, conflict, gender and environmental sensitivities relevant to the specific context and community. A key component of being sensitive in all these areas is first and foremost the task of being/becoming more self-aware (internal) and sharing this within the team (externally). Therefore, a space for cultivating listening, reflecting and openness to mindful criticism is crucial.

For fostering cultural sensitivity, it is not necessary that there be a conflict in a community, but rather that there be an understanding that the people approached may have certain cultural elements that are not known for the project team. Cultural sensitivity is based on assuming that the individuals and communities differ from one to another. Understanding and respecting any given cultural context includes understanding and respecting differences in language, dialect, appearance, behaviour, ethnicity, religion, race, etc. It also includes being aware of and prepared to deal with differences. It is not about imposing one truth, but rather creating a space where differences can be seen and taken into account. Therefore, a space for asking questions, rather than making assumptions is critical.

For fostering conflict sensitivity especially in communities directly affected by armed conflict, it is important to understand the needs and priorities of those living in borderline areas, including IDP communities, refugees and people who have lost loved ones to war. What this often means is that one can’t just go into a community dealing with armed conflict and immediately start talking about peace. An important first step is to familiarize oneselves with the context of the conflict, the different versions of how the conflict is narrated in different communities and to understand the realities of propa- ganda that may be affecting those communities. Furthermore, one needs to be keenly aware that armed conflict has consequences and that in foster- ing dialogue, one cannot undermine the suffering of people who have been through/are going through the consequences of armed violence. As a project implementer, one’s job is not to accuse or judge anyone, but rather to create space for discussing, listening, learning and transforming a culture of violence that may be a result of armed conflict and its consequences. Another important step is to use sensitive language when speaking about the conflict. What this often means is to listen and to understand why certain terminology is used in certain contexts.

For fostering gender sensitivity and having a more culture of peace approach to gender it is important to have a practice of constantly reflecting on gender. This includes understanding how masculinity, femininity, gender roles and stereotypes are perceived and acted out in different contexts. It is important to understand that a culture of peace approach to gender is not only about having a gender balance, which is sometimes the only indicator for mainstreaming gender in different projects. Having a 50/50 approach to gender is not enough to ensure that a project will be gender sensitive or meaningful for women and men. Therefore, having a culture of peace approach while mainstreaming gender implies having a deeper understanding of gender theory, including gender roles, gender stereotypes, gender biases, and the role of patriarchy in perpetuating gender stereotypes and roles.

Before starting the project, it is important to reflect on how to make a project accessible to both girls and boys, men and women and keeping in mind that gender is not binary, so that there might be people who identify as neither a man or a woman. To ensure that a project is relevant for all genders, it is also important to include topics within the program that are relevant for women, men, girls and boys. Additionally, throughout the project the team leaders can continuously reflect on gender in order to be prepared to challenge any inequalities, discriminatory perspectives and behaviours that may rise up before, during and after implementation. As examples, when working in rural areas it might be a challenge to ensure that young women and girls are able to participate. Often, it may require that project coordinators speak to parents or school and/or community leaders in advance to allow for trust between the community and the project team so as to ensure young girls are permitted to take part in a given program.

Good relationship and trust among the project team and community is equally important as with other stakeholders and implementing partners. Accountability and respecting diversity are key elements to this process. When considering a stakeholder analysis during the planning stage of the project cycle, including partners you will work with, it is important to think about who can be an obstacle for project implementation. In some cases, community leaders can be either a partner or can stop one from entering the community. Therefore, it is important to have strategies to work with different partners that are based on culture of peace elements such as transparency, trust building, open communication and an in depth understand- ing of the context.

Sometimes one might have to consider working with partners in a situation where there is no alternative to culture of violence, where relevant partners do not necessarily share values of peace. In this case, one approach is to sacrifice some part of the project and to refuse to work with partners that do not have a culture of peace approach. If the entire project will be sacrificed as a result, one might still consider working with such partners and create space for having constant dialogue in order to find key points of agreement on important values regarding peace in terms of how the work can be done with a more culture of peace approach.

Once the needs assessment reveals the priorities of a particular community, the project team can take all the above-mentioned sensitivities in mind with designing a relevant project. In order to ensure that a relevant project has been designed, the community with and for whom said project will be implemented can be consulted on activities, project outcomes and indicators of change. Such a process can ensure the trust being built between the community and project team, transparency in communication of planned activities and thinking behind rationale for activities, and respect for the community priorities where change is needed.

Often when coming up with a theory of change and clear objectives and indicators during the project planning phase the community for whom a project is being planned is left out of the process. This report suggest engaging the community in as many spheres of the planning and implementa- tion work as possible, which includes getting feedback on the project design as well as consulting on a theory of change. The platform that is created from the beginning of the planning stage with involving the community in the needs assessment can be utilized for involving the community in under- standing how those needs can be translated into activities for change. The project team can do a simple exercise with the community to understand and agree on the context, the priorities identified, the activities suggested and the expected change. This way the community not only shares their needs and priorities with project members and other community members, but also shares their vision for what is needed in order for change to take place. Such a process can also ensure that the activities and methods for achieving change will do no harm to the community itself.

Finally, as part of the process of ensuring a culture of peace approach to results based management, it can be important to come up with output and outcome level indicators that are not only culture of peace specific, but are also part of the objectives (for example: not only having quantitative indica- tors for measuring diversity, access, participation, etc. but also having qualitative indicators to measure the extent to which a particular community transforms attitudes and behaviours based in a culture of violence to a culture of peace.)

What to ask yourself (and within your team) to plan a culture of peace sensitive project

  1. Have you and your team created a space and opportunity for members of the community you plan to serve to gather and discuss their context, needs and priorities?
  2. Do you and your team have community member/s represented in the project team? Do they have a substantial role and decision making power in all stages of the project?
  3. Is the project team sensitized to the particular context, needs and identity of the communi- ty/ies the project is serving?
  4. Have you and your team reached out to a diverse contingency of people to be inclusive with the target group for the project?
  5. Have you and your team considered that all activities, objectives and methods in the design of the project will do no harm to the relevant community?