Fletcher Features

Vanessa Corlazzoli (F11) on Building Peace from the Ground Up

Vanessa Corlazzoli (F11), DM&E Specialist at Search for Common Ground

What does an award-winning soap opera about multi-national soccer stars have to do with peacebuilding efforts in Africa, Asia and the Middle East? The popular TV series is just one example of how Search For Common Ground (Search) is transforming the world of conflict resolution through its innovative and collaborative approach. 

Produced in 14 countries throughout the region, The Team leverages a worldwide passion for soccer (football) as a tool for increasing tolerance, cooperation and national unity in communities wracked by conflict. The series follows diverse members of a soccer team who must overcome their differences—cultural, ethnic, religious, tribal—in order to win. Using local talent, including actors and scriptwriters with firsthand experience with violent conflict, the series rings true for viewers. 

“What makes Search so unique is its collaborative approach to problem solving,” says Vanessa Corlazzoli (MALD ’11), a design, monitoring and evaluation (DME) manager at Search. In her work, Corlazzoli leads a team of five full-time staff based in Nepal, Tunisia, Burundi,and Washington, D.C., who monitor and evaluate initiatives like this one in more than 25 countries.

The depth and breadth of Search can be found in such initiatives as a computer game designed for Rwandan school children, Radio for Peacebuilding in Nepal, and puppet shows in Kyrgystan. As its name implies, Search’s toolbox includes media production—radio, tv, film and print—mediation and facilitation, training, community organizing, sports, theatre and music.

"Our projects are designed keeping in mind the unique conflict dynamics in each situation,” says Corlazzoli. “This means that all our monitoring and evaluation methodology must be adaptive to each context.” 

At the heart of this task is a continuing conversation that requires Search team members to ask and present difficult questions to themselves and those they are serving, with an eye to always posing the next hard question. Corlazzoli’s role is to help them identify the best methodology and approach to present those questions. In a few weeks, Corlazzoli will be traveling to Liberia to perform a baseline study to assess the relationship between civil society organizations and governance institutions. From there she will travel to Nigeria to conduct a midterm evaluation of a peacebuilding media project called Tomorrow is a New Day in the Niger Delta.

Corlazzoli says that her role at Search is a natural extension of what she learned at Fletcher. By teaching her to ask the right questions and present the answers in the most efficient and useful way, Fletcher provided her with a microcosm for the real world skills needed to succeed at Search.  Immersed in the multidisciplinary study of international affairs and Fletcher’s diverse global community, Corlazzoli learned to look at conflict and the methodology necessary to dissect peacebuilding from multiple points of view.

Corlazzoli chose Fletcher for its international, multicultural student body and faculty, and the inspiring work they are doing all over the world.  She grew up in both Canada and Uruguay and came to Fletcher having worked for the Canadian government in Research and Innovation and International Development in Peru.

Although Corlazzoli spends almost half of her time at Search providing on-the-ground support to colleagues in the field at locations around the world, Fletcher’s vast alumni network means she is never far from home. “Last night, four Fletcher Alumni had a lovely dinner in downtown Kigali,” Corlazzoli wrote from a recent trip. “I work for Search, another person is working for the World Bank in an impact evaluation, another person is negotiating multi-million dollar contracts on behalf of the government and the other one works for UNHCR.” She added, “Fletcher is a wonderful place and I am honored to be associated with it.”