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“Theories of Change” & Violent Youth Mobilization

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Presentation on theme: "“Theories of Change” & Violent Youth Mobilization"— Presentation transcript:

1 “Theories of Change” & Violent Youth Mobilization
Youth Participation & Peacebuilding 2009 In the next few minutes – before breaking you into groups for what should be an enlightening activity – I’m going to introduce and juxtapose two themes not usually considered in tandem: Theories of Change: An Organizational Tool for Effective Programming (usually used for peacebuilding, development, and community civic action) And Violent Youth Mobilization – The seeming antithesis of these programs – We’re going to unpack divergent explanations and guiding assumptions.

2 Brief Primer on Theories of Change
Roots in Literature on Program Evaluation and Organizational Management Assumptions on “How the World Works” If-Then Statements Guiding Interventions Effective Theories: “Plausible, Doable, Testable” (Source: Shapiro “Theories of Change”) As for Theories of Change (ToC): We will be addressing this concept in more detail a bit later, and you’ll have ample opportunity to try your hand. Basic Idea: ToC: Underlying Assumptions behind Organizational Strategy and Programming Think of it this way: If we take … action, then we can expect … to happen! Theories of change offer the “why” and “how” to help us move from Abstract Theory & Goal-Setting to Organizational Action & Implementation Examples of If-Then Statements related to Youth Work?

3 Theories of Change: Key Assumptions Driving Program Vision & Implementation
To reach our goals – any goals (or Long-Term outcomes, as posed in the slide), we are wise to consider our pathways of change. What are the specific preconditions – or contextual factors – that are we targeting with our interventions? How can we measure success, short term and long term? Source: Anderson The Community Builder’s Approach to Theories of Change, p 6.

4 Key Questions For Interventions
This slide poses a number of questions relevant to any type of intervention: Take a moment to look them over… Such questions force us to re-assess our goals, strategies, capacity, resources, and environmental circumstances… Necessary to meet any goal we are setting out to achieve. Again, we will revisit this topic in more detail later today… I just want to set the stage. Source: Anderson The Community Builder’s Approach to Theories of Change, 8.

5 Applying “Theories of Change” to Violent Youth Mobilization
Examine Your Guiding Assumptions and Explanations for Violent Youth Mobilization Consider Socio-Political & Cultural Context Assess Your Organizational Capacity Determine Your Strategy for Mobilization Now the Leap: Applying Theories of Change to Violent Mobilization For a Moment, imagine you are not a student or practitioner committed to peacebuilding… Instead you are a general in the armed forces, a commander in a non-state armed group, a leader in a neighborhood gang, or a political strong-man committed to rule my any means necessary. How do “theories of change” apply to you? To be effective you are sure to Examine your assumptions Consider your context and capacity Determine your strategy In a little while, we’re going to have you put this into practice… For now, though, we’ll try and give you a head start by addressing some of the key literature on youth violence...

6 Explaining Youth Violence: Key Lenses from the Literature
“Group Dynamics” Lens Youth Bulges & Polarized Boundaries “Grievance” Lens Frustration & Failed Expectations “Greed” Lens Opportunities & Coercion Before we talk about mobilizing young people into effective peacebuilding programs –a goal, I’m sure, of most who are present - it makes sense to explore potential explanations of why many children and youth around the world are drawn into armed conflict and civil violence. I’ve grouped the literature into three categories: group dynamics theory, grievance theory, and greed theory. You might think of these as alternative lenses to view contextual “reality”, and I’ll address each in turn.

7 “Group Dynamics” Explanations
“Youth Bulges” / “Security Demographics”: Lots of Young Men = Lots of Violence? Emphasis: Biological vs. Institutional Polarized Boundaries & Social Networks: Crisis-Fed “Us-Them” Networks = Violence? Emphasis: Family vs. Identity Group Emphasis: Ethno-Religious vs. Class Emphasis: Psycho-social vs. Institutional The “Youth Bulge” is really a demographic lens. Some theorists argue biological determinism: unattached youth, especially young men, are inherently violent and unstable. Other analysts focus on institutional costs, highlighting threats to & from large youth cohorts due to crowding and lack of opportunities: more youth means fewer jobs, resources, and space for political participation to go around… thus, more potential for youth discontent and violence. Obviously, “youth bulge” arguments are heated between those who see demography as destiny vs. possibility, or threat vs. opportunity. A Related Group Dynamics Explanation of Violence involves Polarized Social Networks: The argument is that we join those we know and love… and follow their example to fit in. In times of crisis, leaders of violent groups build ties to youth trust networks and learn to “speak their language”, leveraging commonly expressed hopes and fears. Identity can easily be cast in “us-them” terms and linked to deeply held narratives related to family, neighborhood, class, religion, or nation. Here we are confronted with “cycles of violence” – patterns of group behavior at home, in the workplace, in worship – building on a heritage of group trauma and identity politics.

8 “Grievance” Explanations
Frustration and Failed Expectations: Unmet Expectations = Violence? Emphasis: Relative vs. Absolute Deprivation Emphasis: Comparing w/ Other Groups vs Comparing w/ Recent Experience Emphasis: Political vs. Economic Participation Another lens to explore violent mobilization focuses on grievances: More pointed, youth who are frustrated and feel abandoned by state and civic institutions are more likely to rebel! According to the relative deprivation literature, grievances arise when individual and communal realities do not meet expectations. Crucial here -- as with group dynamics explanations -- is the “spark” of crisis: forcing a reassessment of social, political and livelihood strategies. Some analysts argue that beyond the effects of repression or economic downturns on frustration and polarization, youth may become disaffected when expansions in their education and technology access do not relay into expected economic and political opportunities. This may help to explain why “elites” may be drawn into violence before peasants, with grievances a matter of failed expectations as much as poverty and oppression per se.

9 “Greed” Explanations Opportunities and Coercion:
Organizational Incentives = Violence? Emphasis: Carrots vs. Sticks (Example: War Booty vs. Fear) Emphasis: Political vs. Economic Options A final lens to explain youth violence focuses on opportunity structures for mobilization. In other words, youth join violent groups because they offer effective carrots and sticks. High profile economists favor a “greed” explanation for civil wars, claiming “grievances” and “group dynamics” alone vastly over-predict conflict. Rewards can vary greatly among recruits into violent networks: they may covet financial gain and war booty, community esteem and sense of belonging, skill building and social capital, even survival in the case of coerced or kidnapped youth. Then, once they are successfully incorporated into a violent organization, these recruits face new commitments and social bonds, new promises for advancement, and new barriers for exit.

10 What Do You Think? Which Explanation – or Theoretic Lens – Best Explains Youth Violent Mobilization in the Conflict Settings You Know Best? “Group Dynamics” Lens “Grievance” Lens “Greed” Lens Other Explanation? Now to get some class feedback: If you had to choose one of the three lenses – group dynamics, grievance, or greed – which do you find most compelling to explain the conflict or violent settings with which you are most familiar? Stand up and move around -- Group Dynamics here, grievance here, greed here, “other” explanations here -- Why did you choose…. ? Why not… ? Why the similarity? Or Diversity?

11 Effective Explanations of Violence: Synthesis Based on Case Knowledge
There is much to be gained from each of these theoretic lenses, but I am reminded of the old Indian legend of 6 blind men describing an elephant: Each describes a piece of empirical reality – the snake that is the trunk, the spear that is the tusk – but a “superior story” offers synthesis: Of course, In different contexts and different organizational settings, alternate lenses may offer more or less explanatory value… and more or less leverage for an effective “theory of change”… whether you are organizing a s strategy involving violence or embracing peacebuilding. Source: Richardson Paradise Poisoned: Learning bout Conflict, Terrorism and Development from Sri Lanka’s Civil Wars.

12 Group Exercise: Mobilizing Youth Violence
Imagine You Are the Leadership Junta: State Military Non-State Armed Group Gang / Criminal Network Political Party (Strong-Armed) Consider Goals, Strategies, and Constraints Now we’re going to break into groups – building on what we’ve recently discussed, but even more your experiences and wisdom from the field. You are now the leadership junta of a group that often… or even occasionally… recruits children and youth into your ranks and uses violence to meet your goals. Decide on a real or imagined organization your group will represent over the next few minutes in building a basic “theory of change” for mobilizing young people into your ranks. What is your purpose? Get in their shoes, consider their goals, strategies, possibilities and constraints. Have someone take notes along the way so we can share highlights posted on butcher paper in just a bit.

13 Questions to Consider in Groups: Mobilizing Youth Violence
What are the Primary Goals of Your Organization? How Does Involving Youth Help you Achieve Goals? What Roles Do You Want Youth to Play? Is This the Same/ Different for Young Men & Women? How Do You Plan to Involve Youth? Methods? What are Contextual Factors Working for You? How Do You Channel/ Leverage Such Factors? What are Key Constraints That You Face? These are few questions that may be useful as you work with your groups: we’ll leave them up on the projector for you to consult as needed. Be creative and get into your roles. Be respectful of one another, and think of ways to summarize your analysis and decision-making for the rest of the group.

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