The youth are a crucial component in achieving sustainable peace and development in countries with a youthful majority. To quantify the impact of youth-led and adult-supported interventions in these countries, a shift in mindset is required regarding how we think of impact and how we quantify it. This report summarizes the findings from a proof-of-concept study analyzing the impact of investments in peacebuilding programs in Kenya using the Social Return on Investment (SROI) methodology.
The youth, peace and security (YPS) agenda is gaining momentum across policy, funding and practice communities. To match this growing interest, the YPS agenda requires a change in mindset on how we think of impact and how we quantify that impact as it relates to youth-led and adult-supported interventions that impact the lives of people in youthful majority countries. Measuring the right impacts changes the narrative and puts power where it matters – in the hands of young people locally, something critical in understanding the role of young people in preventing violence and sustaining peace. The international community critically needs a way to assess the impacts of youth-led and youth-supporting peacebuilding interventions to better support and sustain these efforts.
While evaluations of peacebuilding programming are conducted regularly, little is known about the overall impact and return on investment of such programs. Traditional economic evaluations often shed light on cost savings to the State but are hard to come by in the peacebuilding field. Furthermore, traditional approaches do not capture the value of interventions to all key stakeholders, including youth and communities, and what matters most to them.
To fill this gap, a research team led by the Institute on Inequalities in Global Health at the University of Southern California in collaboration with Search for Common Ground and multiple partners, conducted a proof-of-concept study of the impact of peacebuilding interventions using social return on investment (SROI) methodology, a stakeholder-centered participatory approach to impact measurement and management, to evaluate youth-led and youth-supporting peacebuilding interventions in Kenya. The SROI methodology is well-aligned with the Peace Impact Framework by using a combination of standard measures, perspectives of affected communities, and practitioners’ expert insights.
Methodology & Findings
This proof-of-concept study aimed to measure the impact of four youth-led and youth-supporting peacebuilding interventions in Kenya. These interventions were implemented in multiple counties of Kenya over a period of two to five years between 2015 and 2021. The research team utilized the internationally-recognized approach to SROI analysis to conduct evaluations of the interventions.
The evaluation employed a mixed-methods approach, which included reviewing program reports and peacebuilding literature, conducting qualitative data collection through focus groups and key informant interviews, and quantitative data collection through surveys. The data generated from these methods were used to generate evidence for each evaluation.
Central to the SROI analysis approach is understanding from key stakeholders how an intervention affects them, including both positive and negative outcomes they may have experienced, and the relative value of these outcomes. Across the evaluations, the following stakeholder groups were consulted: youth participants (age 18-35), their families, community influencers, women participants over age 35, religious leaders, trainers, security actors, engaged listeners of radio programming, private sector businesses, and program staff. Stakeholders described having experienced a multitude of outcomes resulting from the programs, with the ones they found most important being increased networking and opportunities, becoming an upstanding member of society, and increased capacity for peacebuilding.
For the SROI evaluations, outcomes were monetized according to two different approaches to valuation: cost-based valuation (using financial proxies found in the literature), which is traditionally how most economic evaluations including SROI analyses are done, and stakeholders-stated preference valuation (derived directly from stakeholders via focus groups, interviews, and surveys). Comparing the value of outcomes with the investment yielded SROI ratios from each approach to valuation, followed by sensitivity analyses to understand how ratios would be affected with differences to key assumptions.
Results of the cost-based valuation found an overall social return on investment of $1.54 for every dollar invested, indicating that the value exceeded investments in programming (with a sensitivity analysis range from $0.31-$2.30). However, given the dearth of literature in this context, including limited studies on value to the State, and the narrowness of the perspective on value applied, the utility of this set of results is limited. Results of the stakeholders-stated preference valuation, which allowed for a fuller picture of the outcomes including that which is most valuable to key stakeholders experiencing the programming, found an overall social return on investment between $5.20 and $10.07 for every dollar invested, also indicating that the value exceeded investments in programming (with a sensitivity analysis range from $0.95-$15.03). Additional results of stakeholder-stated preference valuation found even higher social returns on investment in the context of the Kenyan national elections, indicating that stakeholders valued outcomes such as increased networking and opportunities and increased capacity for peacebuilding even more during tense periods such as elections.
In-depth feedback gathered during stakeholder consultations and validation sessions was used to develop recommendations to improve future programming. Four overall recommendations emerged from this study:
- Programs should be designed in consultation with stakeholders. While this recommendation is not novel, this study was a good reminder of the importance of this recommendation. For example, stakeholders in this study voiced they would have liked if organizations could have provided psychosocial support, training on income-generating activities where this was not being done, and inclusion of other vulnerable groups in activities.
- Focus on extending the duration of desired outcomes. Across all of the programs evaluated, many of the outcomes lasted a year or less after the program ended, presenting a key opportunity to explore how design can be improved in the future. In
particular, there was a real interest from stakeholders for increased entrepreneurship opportunities, but those need to be self-sustaining to be most effective. Otherwise, it can leave people frustrated and almost back where they started.
- Increase engagement with private sector stakeholders in programming. The
private sector representatives consulted in the study had a real interest in being involved in programming and both created and derived value from the programs, but seemed to be missing more broadly across programs.
- Collect and respond to feedback from stakeholders, including any sub-groups, and any negative outcomes they may have experienced. As some stakeholders voiced, the purpose of evaluations should not be just to check a box, but rather to actually respond to what was found and use it to improve programming to improve future value.
This is one of the first studies globally to assess the impact of peacebuilding interventions using social return on investment methodology. While it is easy to count the number of people who participate in programming, it is harder to comprehensively capture the outcomes they experience as a result, and how valuable those outcomes are to them. Findings from this study, based on both valuation approaches used and across data collected both before and after national elections in Kenya took place, suggest that the value created by peacebuilding programming exceeds the investments. While youth participants benefitted the most from interventions, there was clear benefit to all key stakeholders. Results of the stakeholder-stated preference valuation found that, overall, for every $1 invested in peacebuilding programs, between $5.20 and $10.07 of value is created, and that value increases even further in tense contexts such as election cycles. Despite its limitations, using the SROI approach for evaluation can provide added value over
traditional evaluation approaches used in YPS sector in the multiple ways
In general, as the goals of programming and evaluation are to improve the well-being of communities, understanding, measuring and valuing what matters most to all key stakeholders is key to proving and improving value. Thinking about applications of the methodology beyond YPS in Kenya, including broader aims of local ownership and partnership, and, inclusive development in design, approach and impact, this study shows that SROI provides measurement and valuation authority to those who are actually experiencing programming, compared to how traditional evaluations are done. This can enable local communities to be empowered to define impact, and to have more ownership of these efforts, ultimately increasing their value and the returns on investments. Access each of the full SROI reports using the
- SROI Evaluation of the Program Contributing Towards Sustainable Peace in the Coast Region of Kenya: Mombasa, Lamu, Kilifi And Tana River Counties;
- Social Value Analysis of Young Women Leaders Mediation Project;
- SROI Evaluation Of Conflict Prevention, Peace, And Economic Opportunities For The Youth; and
- SROI Evaluation of Project Inuka.
This study was made possible by the support of the United States Agency for International Development under the terms of cooperative agreement no. GS-10F-0033M / 7200AA18M00016, Tasking N052, in partnership with NORC. The contents are the responsibility of the authors (Shubha Kumar, Sara Olsen, Aaron Mallett, and Saji Prelis) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Agency for International Development or the United States Government. Report submitted in February 2023.