Do No Harm Framework

Objective: To understand sources of tension, cohesion and capacities for maintaining peace within the context of a community and program.


The Do No Harm framework is a flexible tool that can be used at every step of the analysis process, from initial analysis to developing and monitoring theories of change to measuring impact. It is particularly compatible with community-based participatory approaches.

Do No Harm examines:

  • Dividers: Sources of tension between groups that may be rooted in the underlying causes of poverty (root causes), or may be more recent, short-lived or manipulated by subgroup leaders; and
  • Connectors: Recognizing that even during conflict, people remain connected through for example markets, infrastructure, common experiences, historical events, symbols, and shared attitudes; and
  • Local Capacities for Peace: Identifying individuals and institutions who have a role in maintaining peace (e.g. formal and informal justice systems, police forces, elders, teachers, or clergy) who may not be able to prevent violence but provide an avenue for rebuilding relations outside the conflict.

This tool organizes these into a visual mapping to highlight their actual and potential relationships —to each other, and to programs.

Throughout analysis and program implementation, CARE and its partners must remain aware of how exercises, interventions and ways of working may affect the relational dynamics and structures within a community – in terms of their effects on:

  • Tensions (strengthening dividers);
  • Sources/relations of cohesiveness and resilience (strengthening connectors and building local capacities for peace); and
  • The overall underlying causes of poverty.

The Do No Harm framework also provides space to examine how gender roles affect Dividers and Connectors.

Although the framework itself is user friendly, and its concepts relatively easy to grasp, the process of integrating Do No Harm into programming and staff perspective requires continuous monitoring of changes taking place within a community, and adjusting strategies and approaches accordingly.

It also requires organizational and staff commitment to examine their own capacity for conflict sensitivity (policies, procedures, experience, selection, oversight and management of staff and partners, etc.).



As described by the Collaborative for Development Action (CDA, 2004), the Do No Harm Framework can be applied through 7 basic steps:

  1. Once the 'community' has been identified and defined, discuss:
    1. What conflicts have caused violence between groups or may escalate into violence within this area?
    2. How does or might the project relate to that context of conflict?
  2. Identify and unpack, what are the dividers and sources of tension? Consider historical injustices or short-lived tensions that might arise from the mobilization of particular leaders.
  3. What are the connectors and local capacities for peace? (e.g. markets, infrastructure, common experiences, history, symbols, associations, attitudes) Are there particular leaders or instituions that maintain peace between groups?
  4. What are the project's characteristics?
    1. Where and why are services and activities offered?
    2. Who are the staff and how were they hired?
    3. Who are the target or impact groups, and what criteria was used to select them?
    4. What were participants offered and how were benefits delivered/distributed?
    5. How are decisions made?
  5. How has the project affected dividers and connectors?
    1. Who gains or loses from the project? And do these groups overlap with divisions in the community that are potentially destructive? Does the project support military activities or civilian institutions? Does the project miss or ignore opportunities to reinforce connectors? Or undermine/weaken local capacities for peace?
    2. What resources does the project provide, and its impact on conflict?
    3. What messages do the project's ways of working communicate?
  6. How can the project be adapted or redesigned to eliminate any negative impacts?
  7. Once a new approach has been developed, what may be the impacts of this strategy on dividers and connectors?



  • Collaborative for Development Action (2004). Do No Harm Handbook. Collaborative Learning Projects.