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Systems Approaches to Conflict Analysis




Admissions requirements

The 100-level Peace and Conflict Studies class and any 200-level course from the Peace and Conflict Studies track of the World Politics Major.


This course main objective is to train students in state-of-the-art techniques of designing, planning, monitoring and evaluating peacebuilding and development projects. Basis for all these activities is conflict analysis and theories of change. The course will introduce most recent frameworks for conflict and context analysis (e.g. of UNDP, USAID, various countries development agencies, Ministry of Foreign Affaires of Netherlands, etc.) and tools for project evaluation, such as OECD-DAC guidance for evaluation.

This course will explore a recent trend/tool for analyzing and transforming conflict called systems thinking approach. The approach emerged out of necessity since many policies and programmes in peace-building practice in the past two decades have had limited or no effect, or even had an unintended negative effect and worsened already too complex situation on the ground. The biggest challenge for peacebuilding and development in a dynamic conflict environment has been dealing with that complexity. Policing and programming, in order to be comprehensible, sacrificed comprehensiveness and failed to take into account multiple interconnected subsystems and diverse causal loops. Monitoring and evaluating of, often delayed, real impact of the programmes was usually not planned or funded. Many conflict analysis frameworks are static and partial. There is a growing awareness that complex, protracted and recurrent conflicts require a holistic, flexible and adaptive approach to peace-building that would integrate a variety of factors (security, political, socio-economic and cultural) and multidisciplinary approaches. The essence of systems thinking approach is the idea that cause and effect relationship are not linear, direct or proportional. Therefore, developing an ability for seeing the structures that underlie complex situations and enabling learning/constant adapting during the process itself through monitoring and evaluating will be in focus of this course. The course will explore some recently developed systems tools, such as RPP (reflecting on peace practice) matrix, visual maps for conflict analysis, theories of change, systems archetypes and enhancing monitoring through feedback loops. In this course, the students will learn how to test their assumptions and reflect upon and evaluate contribution of their peace initiative to larger peace. The course will draw on large number of case studies.

Course objectives

After successful completion of this course students are able to:

  • construct complex conflict maps in order to identify leverage points

  • contextualize the theories of change: identify how change happens (or doesn’t happen) at each programme step, and how the achievement of a programme’s goal contributes to the broader peace

  • identify gaps in analysis and strategy development critical to effectiveness and impact of a peace initiative

  • provide the basis for evaluating programmes under uncertainty

  • critically assess the strengths and limitations of systems approach to conflict transformation


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

The course is taught through two-hour seminars. Students are expected to participate in both large and small group discussions; present and defend their ideas within an academic setting; and take part in individual presentations. The instructor will facilitate and ensure the efficient running of the discussion, but students are responsible for shaping its direction. Each seminar has a ‘required reading’ list that must be read in advance of each seminar.


Assessment 1: Seminar Participation (15%)
Students are expected to actively participate in all seminar activities (15% of final grade).

Assessment 2: Weekly reflection notes/webposts – 4 notes (500 words) per 7,5% (30%) in weeks 2-5
There will be 3 reflection notes to be written and submitted, by the end of weeks 2, 3, 4 and 5. Each note should be around 500 words long (excluding references and footnotes). Questions to discuss in the reflection notes will be announced a week in advance, and they will be based on the current week’s topic and compulsory readings already discussed.

Assessment 3: Presenting a proposal for individual research essay (15%) in week 6
The proposal will form the basis of your individual research essay, and constitute 15% of the final grade. It is an individual presentation that should last no longer than 10 minutes together with the Q&A. You should present on your main idea for research paper, have a clearly articulated research problem, structure and methodology. You are expected to engage in discussion based on your classmates and instructor’s questions, and to benefit from their comments. Overall performance during presentation and Q&A session will be graded (15% of final grade).

Assessment 4: Individual Research Essay 40% in the reading week
The final component of assessment is an individual research essay (between 3,500 and 4000-word long, excluding bibliography), worth 40% of the final grade, addressing a problem related to a concrete conflict.

Essay should focus on the theoretical issues at stake and use examples to illustrate and substantiate your general arguments. It should have a clear introduction and conclusion, a coherent and logical argument running through the essay, and offer reasons/evidence in support of your position. The analysis should draw on and critically engage with a good range of sources, and all ideas and information should be properly referenced.


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

TBA via Blackboard.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dr. Maja Vodopivec, Room 4.07, meeting by appointment or during office hours. Contact: