1. Organisational Culture and Norms

Culture includes the system of attitudes about work, values, beliefs, underlying norms present in the organisation. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to as every organisation is unique because of its history, mission and vision, strategies, approaches, members, organisational structure and management style and local culture/context in which it operates. Nevertheless, an organisational culture which expresses the values of the organisation in practice is key to drive the organisation forward in support of its mission, vision and strategy.

In this guide, five main criteria are proposed to assess organisational culture and norms supportive of monitoring, evaluation and learning in youth peace organisations:

  • Dialogue and peaceful transformation of conflicts within the organisation
  • Diversity
  • Safety and responsibility
  • Culture of learning
  • Culture of sustainability

In the following paragraphs, guidance and proposals are offered on how to promote internal organisational evaluation, reflection and learning practices.

If you first want to assess Assess your organisational culture and norms  or refresh your memory about the specific indicators per criteria click here.

Dialogue and peaceful transformation of conflicts

Conflict is natural part of life. Conflicts often arise within organisation at many levels: between individuals and between teams or units. If addressed constructively and cultivating dialogue, conflicts can be opportunities for personal and organisational learning and growth. Below are a few proposals which could contribute to an organisational culture based on dialogue and positive transformation of conflicts.

Creating a Code of Conduct

A code of Conduct is a set of conventional principles and expectations outlining a range of social norms, rules and responsibilities that are considered binding by the individuals that are part of an organisation or a group. Develop a Code of Conduct or ethical guidelines which show awareness and commitment to peace values applied to internal practices. These document(s) should guide all aspects of the organisation’s work and their projects.

Ideally it would include the following aspects:

  • Written commitment to a culture of dialogue
  • Written commitment to internal conflict transformation procedures
  • Procedural guide for conflict transformation in the organisation
  • List of resources on and conflict transformation, dialogue processes, nonviolent communication, etc.

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Reviewing an existing code of conduct

Promote a culture of dialogue and the ability to transform (internal) conflicts

Promoting a culture of dialogue and abilities to transform conflicts constructively requires working on developing peace knowledges, attitudes and skills. For example, these may include the following:


  • Knowledge of the social, cultural, political and economic context of the organisation and the background of the team members
  • Knowledge of languages
  • Knowledge of peacebuilding and conflict transformation literature


  • Respect for the opinion of others
  • Honesty
  • Responsibility


  • Critical analysis
  • Conflict analysis
  • (non-violent) communication
  • Mediation and negotiation
  • Leadership and participatory management

Strategies for conflict transformation in organisations

A strategy to transform an internal conflict needs to be based on an in-depth understanding of the conflict. Conflicts can be between individuals, between teams or departments, or even among organisations which are part of a federation or network.

Possible sources of conflict

  • Different goals. Conflicts over goals in individual work units are a natural part of any organisation, but depends how they are handled/transformed.
  • Interdependence of work. Refers to the degree of which departments rely on each other for information, compliance, assistance or resources.  It could also refer to the degree to which employees are dependent on each other and interfere each other’s work.
  • Ambiguous rules and misunderstanding of information. Job specifications and task responsibilities are vague and/or unclear. There could be disagreement regarding responsibilities for tasks and resources. This could lead to conflicts between managers and other members.
  • Incompatible personalities. Two or more people do not get along or have differences in personality, attitudes, values, and beliefs.
  • Power dynamics and differences in status. One member questions the influence of another member. Conflict could escalate because of somebody challenging the status quo and trying to increase their own power or status in an organisation.
  • Communication Breakdown. Could arise from lack of or poor opportunities to communicate, insufficient communication skills, different perception of conflicts
  • Scarce Resources. Groups, teams or departments could compete for scarce or declining resources including money, supplies, people or information.
  • Competitiveness in the organisational structure/practices. Conflicts may surface because of the focus on competitive performance.
  • Lack of accountability. No one is willing to take responsibility for problems when they arise.

11262211_400062723519499_3156649543781715474_nOne useful method to address conflict is mediation/facilitation of dialogue. Here are some basic basic tips that you can use within your organisation:

  • Understand the conflict. Before you engage, make sure all the perspectives of the issue have been taken into account.
  • Acknowledge the problem. Perceptions on the issue may vary across various members. Acknowledge the frustrations, grievances and concerns from the start.
  • Be patient and take time. Take time to evaluate all information. Thoroughly evaluate your decisions before your act upon them and ensure you are not creating more harm.
  • Focus on the problem, not the person. Avoid passing judgement of people based on your preconceived ideas. Focus on identifying and resolving the conflict, not on changing the person.
  • Set conflict transformation guidelines. Before announcing a formal meeting between the parties in conflict, have them all agree to a few guidelines. Guideline may involve a certain communication process, restorative practices, reconciliation measures.
  • Keep the communication open. Ideally all parties involved should resolve the issue among themselves. Allow all parties to express their points of view, but also share your personal opinion. Facilitate the meeting by supporting them to identify root cause of the conflict

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Different people have different roles and responsibilities in organisations, which can be shaped or changed during situations of tension and conflict. It is important to consider how your internal norms and procedures will impact on different people (gender, race, age, sexual orientation, physical or intellectual ability, religion or socioeconomic status, etc.) differently. By mainstreaming diversity, your organisation will be more likely to contribute to equity, enhanced team spirit and organisational sustainability.

The following are some tips on embracing and practicing diversity in your organisation:

  • Be open about the tensions between the need to value and accept different views and opinions and the aspiration for shared organisational values. Discuss openly about the necessary conditions which will change the position of the organisation towards people who are different.
  • Question organisational policies and practices that may be exclusivist or discriminatory.
  • Involve diverse groups in problem solving and identifying opportunities. Look at the issues and opportunities empathically before making decisions.
  • Challenge your own and other’s assumptions and seek to understand diversity from a wider perspective beyond just ethnicity or gender issues.
  • Be mindful about your instinctive thoughts, speech and behaviors for unexamined assumptions and stereotypical expressions.
  • Be vocal and take attitude when other colleagues are not being valued or their ideas and perspectives are not heard or considered. Pay attention to the fact that some colleagues need recognition of their differences while others do not.
  • Be sensitive when it come to joking about diversity and differences. Take a stand and inform the others when the jokes are offensive to you.
  • Consider becoming a mentor to a new member who come from a different background and different experiences.

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Safety and responsibility

Organisational Culture

The health and safety of the members of the organisation is a fundamental aspect of its functioning. Without the right conditions and basic knowledge of these aspects we could be putting team members and participants´ health and life at risk. There are a few things you should consider and verify with the local authorities in charge of safety at the workplace or in the spaces where activities take place:

  • The organisation has a plan of early warning and evacuation of people and goods in case of emergencies
  • Permanent staff members are instructed to respond in case of emergencies and are able to offer first aid. The permanents staff participates in periodic trainings on the topic.
  • The organisation is aligned to and implements the needed legislation on security and health.

Culture of learning

Whatever the monitoring and evaluation methods you will opt for, reflection and learning will not happen unless there is an enabling environment for it. Therefore, it is important to create an organisational culture of learning that includes the following.

  • The time and space for exchange, reflection and learning is considered valuable for the members in tems time and other resources spent on it and is not considered a burden
  • Individuals share the same vision and mission and feel motivated to help achieve them
  • Individuals feel that their ideas and suggestions are valued and are being followed upon
  • Critical reflection on personal, team and organisational performance is included in job descriptions and stipulated in performance assessments
  • Knowledge is shared, rather than hoarded as a means of increasing personal power
  • The question “why?” is not discouraged or taken as institutional subversion
  • Mistakes and failures are seen as learning opportunities, rather than something that has to be blamed on someone and therefore to be hidden or denied
  • Communication from subordinates to managers is encouraged, and where managers listen to their staff;
  • The benefits of working with other stakeholders are seen as outweighing the loss of institutional control and autonomy involved.

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  • Learning Communities , Chapter 3. (p. 7-11) in Reflective Peacebuilding – A Planning, Monitoring and Learning Toolkit (2007)  The Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame.
Example of a practical method to create an open space for learning at the start of each week at the International Secretariat of SCI.

Culture of Sustainability

More and more organisations are starting to realise the added value of developing a focus on sustainability. They inspire and and engage their members, partners and stakeholders to make sustainability a priority in their projects as well as part of the organisational work.

When developing a sustainability strategy consider the following steps:

  1. Set a baseline against actions/areas that (will) embed sustainability
  2. Compare your results with other organisations you look up to
  3. Allocate time and necessary resources to address the key obstacles which prevent the team to embrace sustainable actions
  4. Seek new opportunities to build on current commitment and engagement in sustainability
  5. Evaluate the impact of sustainability initiatives

Source: Tim Cotter, Defining And Building A Culture Of Sustainability

Read more about organisational sustainability…


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