The immediate job of project evaluation is to decide what worked and what didn’t. However, the more challenging task is making sense of why success or failure occurred and in so doing to propose appropriate future action. Effective evaluation of conflict resolution initiatives is complicated since interventions involve multiple goals and cross-level connections where indirect effects are often not seen in the short-run. This paper argues that there is no single best instrument or method for evaluating the extent to which conflict resolution practice has been successful. However, this does not mean that evaluation should be ignored. Instead projects need to develop methods that are good enough to be applied in contextually appropriate ways. To assist in this process, this article offers six guidelines for deciding when, how, and the extent to which specific conflict resolution interventions are effective. Good evaluation requires a self-conscious effort to articulate the most significant goals of different groups of participants and to track goal evolution in the course of a project using multiple, operational criteria. It should addresses the question of transfer, the ways in which direct work with only a small number of project participants, is expected to have more extensive, indirect effects on the course of the wider conflict. If it is done well, good evaluation helps practitioners define future activities and helps interveners and funders to imagine good-enough conflict management asking not whether they have fully resolved a complicated conflict but whether they have improved conditions sufficiently so that the parties in the conflict are more likely to develop the capacity to manage it constructively in the future.

Author Bio(s)

Marc Howard Ross is William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Political Science at Bryn Mawr College where he has taught since 1968. He received his degree in political science at Northwestern University and in addition he spent a year studying at the Philadelphia School for Psychoanalysis. He has done research in East Africa, France, Northern Ireland, the Middle East, Spain and South Africa. His current work has two major themes (1) social science theories of conflict and their implications for conflict management and (2) the role that cultural performance and memory play in the escalation and deescalation of ethnic conflict. He has written or edited six books including The Culture of Conflict and The Management of Conflict both published by Yale University Press and several dozen articles that have appeared in diverse academic journals.


conflict resolution evaluation, consensus, project goals, theories of practice

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