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Measuring Peace the EPI Way

Updated: Mar 12, 2021

The Everyday Peace Indicators Project (EPI) addresses concerns about how peace is understood within local communities in order to integrate the conceptions and priorities of everyday people into policy processes.

EPI´s principal investigators Prof. Pamina Firchow (George Mason University) and Prof. Roger Mac Ginty (University of Manchester) have recently published three articles discussing some of the findings of the pilot project, which began in 2013. The first article “Top-down and Bottom-up Narratives of Peace and Conflict”, published on 2016 in the Journal Politics, deals with how the concept of conflict is framed differently in top-down and the bottom-up narratives. This different framing of conflict is important as international peace-support actors often make decisions on intervention based on data that is collected via top-down methodologies. Such interventions may fail to match the expectations of local communities who might use bottom-up ways of seeing the world around them. This in turn has implications for the effectiveness and sustainability of peace interventions. Using data collected in South Africa, South Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe, the authors show that perceptions of peace, safety and security expressed by local communities differ in substantial ways from those coming from top-down narratives. By analyzing community-generated indicators of peace, Profs. Firchow and Mac Ginty conclude that by utilizing research methods oriented toward local communities, it is possible to understand the differences in the politics of the narratives, which could potentially have implications in terms of how to achieve sustainable peace in conflict areas. There are encouraging signs that international organizations and international non-governmental organizations are investigating methodologies that take seriously local, anecdotal and bottom-up ways of seeing the world. Some of these organizations are using variations of the EPI methodology.

At the heart of the Everyday Peace Indicators project lies a methodological puzzle: how can we collect bottom-up data that is at once faithful to how people in local communities see the world around them and collect that data in ways that are methodologically robust and comparable with other data sources? A second article by Profs. Firchow and Mac Ginty investigated this issue and is part of a special issue of International Studies Review that was published as part of the ISA President’s theme on peace. The article, entitled ‘Measuring Peace: Comparability, commensurability and complementarity using bottom-up indicators’, considered a central intellectual and practical puzzle of how bottom-up indicators can sit alongside other indicators that use different levels of analysis. In the article the authors define bottom-up research as “inductive, localized, interested in granularity, and possibly community sourced” (p.8), and analyze the added value provided by this approach. The article draws on the empirical findings from the EPI project from twelve pilots across four countries.

In addition, the authors compare the bottom-up indicators developed by the local communities with four international indices of conflict, peace and development: The Human Development Index (HDI), the Global Peace Index, the Uppsala Conflict Data Program’s Georeferenced Event Data (UCDP GED), and the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Program (ACLED). The authors conclude by discussing the challenges and potentials of complementarity between bottom-up and top-down approaches.

The third paper published by Prof. Firchow and Prof. Mac Ginty is part of a collection of articles on the implications of the use of technology on peace and conflict studies, and for research methodologies in the field. This collection of articles is published in International Studies Perspective. In the article “The Practicalities and Ethics of Mobile Phone Surveys in Conflict-affected Contexts”, Firchow and Mac Ginty discuss the difficulties scholars face when conducting research using technological devices (mainly mobile phones). The authors are mindful that critical approaches to peace and conflict studies calls for a “humane approach” to methodology that are people-focused. By explaining the role of technology in the Everyday Peace Indicators Project in overcoming practical fieldwork issues, Profs. Firchow and Mac Ginty shed light on the advantages and challenges encountered when using mobile phones as research tools in conflict areas. The authors are aware that the use of technology might lead to losing “the finer-grained detail and affective dimension” (p.30) of the social phenomenon under review, but they are encouraged by the reach and safety options offered by mobile technology.

These three articles aim to contribute to the academic discussion on research methods and measurement in the field of peace and conflict studies. Using data collected by the EPI Project, the authors seek to encourage a broad discussion on how academia and international organizations are using data to promote programs intending to achieve peace. The bottom-up indicators developed by EPI provide different narratives of peace and security that could be crucial in delivering programs with a local approach to peace. Finally, these articles advocate for further discussion on the issues of complementarity, comparability and commensurability between the diverse levels and types of indicators and datasets available.

For more information, please find the articles below:

Measuring Peace: Comparability, Commensurability, and Complementarity Using Bottom-Up Indicators

PAMINA FIRCHOW, George Mason University

ROGER MAC GINTY, University of Manchester

Top-down and bottom-up narratives of peace and conflict

ROGER MAC GINTY, University of Manchester

PAMINA FIRCHOW, George Mason University

The Practicalities and Ethics of Mobile Phone Surveys in Conflict-affected Contexts

PAMINA FIRCHOW, George Mason University

ROGER MAC GINTY, University of Manchester

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