Skip to main content
How we work

Research and evaluation

Evaluation and research help us to understand the reach and impact of our work. The monitoring, evaluation, and learning team develops strategies for each of our programs and activities, guided by our theory of change. Our research committee advises on engagement with external evaluators and researchers.

We share our findings through regular program reporting to donors and partners, a publicly available annual report, and through publications and presentations.

Monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) are central to our programs and activities. The three processes are linked, but we consider them separately:

  • Monitoring refers to tracking activities taking place. For example, we record the numbers of people involved and the amount of time spent,
  • Evaluation then seeks to understand the effect of the activities,
  • We learn from this data, and use it to adapt our work to better meet the needs of the people with whom we are working.

No one piece of data tells the whole story of an activity, so we aim to combine different kinds of information to capture a sense of things. Some examples:

  • At a concert given by program participants, we will count the number of people attending a concert, make a film capturing the atmosphere and music of the event, and gather stories from the musicians involved,
  • At a music group we run with a partner organization, we monitor whether attendance levels at the music group impact on engagement with other activities by the partner, run wellbeing surveys, and record songs written by the groups.

For each activity and program our monitoring, evaluation, and learning team develops approaches that capture the data we need.


Our theory of change is currently under its periodic review, after five years of service. We will examine the assumptions made in its logic, and publish revisions in 2022. 

The 2017 theory of change was developed through an extensive process of consultation, which drew on the experience and expertise of people involved throughout Musicians Without Borders, alongside research in the field of arts and social change.

We are interested in research that expands understanding of the ways in which our work, and music-making in general, can build peace and affect social change. To achieve that, we believe that research must be based in the same principles of human rights and nonviolence as the rest of our work. We have developed a guiding statement to help steer us in that stance:

Musicians Without Borders’ team, partners, and program participants hold great knowledge, experience, and expertise. We look to research designs that seek to build from that base, favouring methodologies that are truly participatory, and properly acknowledge the role of everyone involved in the research process.

We are wary of research projects that are better funded than the programs they research, and favour those that contribute resources to the people they aim to benefit.

We seek voices and truths that reflect localized frames of knowledge, rather than reinforcing oppressive discourses that were formed by and sustain violent structures of power.

Research committee

In 2021 we established a committee to advise and support the implementation of research. The committee proactively seeks opportunities, and considers requests by external researchers.

Dr. Heba El-Kholy

Professor Angela Impey

Jean Pierre Ndagijimana, EdD

Dr. Chris Nicholson


Howell, G., Bartleet, B-L., Davidson, J.W., and Pope, J. (2021) “First of all, be friends”: Rock music, social connection, inclusion and mobility in Kosovo and North Macedonia: An evaluation of Music Connects, a project using culture as a driver for social innovation in former Yugoslavia.

Bruce, K., and Impey, A. (2020) Framing Musicians Without Borders’ Peacebuilding Agenda: A Case Study of Soy Música and Palestine Community Music: Summary Version.

Mannaerts, S. (2015) Music in contrast to military occupation: On the significance of community music in occupied territory. MA Thesis, Leiden University.


Haak-Schulenburg, M. (2020) Eine Frage des „Wie“ und nicht des „Was“. Prinzipien und Arbeitsweisen der ‚Musicians without Borders‘ aus der Perspektive der Community Music. Diskussion Musikpädagogik, 87, (20), 27-32.

Howell, G., Pruitt L., and Hassler, L. (2019) Making music in divided cities: Transforming the ethnoscape. International Journal of Community Music, 12 (3), 331-348.

Howell, G., Bartleet, B.L., Davidson, J. (2024) Building social connection and inclusion through rock music in the Western Balkans: Fostering the art of small changes.
Research Studies in Music Education, 1–16.

Van Eck, F. (2014) The role of the musician working with traumatized people in a war-affected area: Let the music happen. Journal of Applied Arts and Health, 4, (3), 301-311.

Chapters in books

Burnard, B., Ross, V., Hassler, L., and Murphy, L. (2018) Translating Intercultural Creativities in Community Music. In: Bartleet, B-L., Higgins, L. (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Community Music. Oxford: Oxford: University Press, Oxford.

Hassler, L. and Nicholson, C. (2017) Cello Lessons and Teargas: War, Peace and Music Education. In: Barton G., Baguley M. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Global Arts Education. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Haak-Schulenburg, M. (2017) Vom Outsider zum Insider: Fallbeispiel eines gelungenen Community-Music-Projektes in Palästina. In: Hill B., de Banffy-Hall A. (eds) Community Music: Beiträge zur Theorie und Praxis aus internationaler und deutscher Perspektive. Münster-New York: Waxmann

Van Eck, F. (2015) Culturally Sensitive Music Activities in Conflict Areas: Increasing Mutual Learning, Respect, and Self-esteem through Music Workshops. In: Kim, S., Kollontai, P., and Yore, S. (eds) Mediating Peace: Reconciliation through Visual Art, Music and Film. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.