“What we’re ‘countering’ or against—rather it’s essential to say what we are for and offer positive alternatives.”

Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini

Our Theory of Change

ICAN’s theory of change holds that civil society – especially women’s –  participation in the promotion of rights, peace and security in countries affected by conflict and crises, leads to a higher chance of successful peace and sustainability. We also believe that inclusivity while essential and acknowledged in policy, remain marginal and unrealized in existing practices.  ICAN also recognizes that change happens gradually; that it does not take place in vacuum nor it is always in one direction or positive. Our approach to the theory of change requires reflecting and addressing the following in our daily work.

Together For Peace
  • Shoring up and sustaining existing capacities and gains

Women and civil society are under enormous pressure, but each country has a rich history of plurality. It is essential that ICAN helps sustain those existing capacities, highlight the past (not allow it to be erased), and provides the assistance that our partners request to enable their own efficacy.


  • Networking and leveraging our connections to elevate and influence policy

Synergy and connectivity between ICAN’s partners can help establish regional movements and collaborative efforts, which bring about changes in social attitude and policies and have impact on the ground.  Through its regional work, ICAN is helping to make the connections and generate collaboration in an organic and self-sustaining manner.ICAN applies the same principle to its international work with the policy community, the media and of course civil society. ICAN does not want to duplicate or compete with other like-minded organizations; rather, ICAN believes it is critical to coordinate (despite the inevitable challenges) and raise a unified voice and message.  Examples of this include ICAN’s Syria-related work and ICAN’s involvement in the US policy environment through the US Civil Society Working Group on Women, Peace and Security.


  • Innovation and pushing the boundaries of discourse and practice

While ICAN builds and leverages existing capacities and knowledge, it also pushes the boundaries by tackling new and emerging issues, and provides alternative perspectives on existing issues. In 2012, for example, ICAN’s case study on the impact of sanctions in Iran prompted others  – notably International Crisis Group, Human Rights Watch –to view sanctions as a human rights issue. In 2014, ICAN’s work on criteria for inclusion of civil society in peace processes helped shift the debate and practice from a question of ‘why civil society’ to a more practical question of ‘which civil society and how to include them’. ICAN is leading a move from theory to practice on women, peace, and security.  Similarly, since 2012 ICAN’s work on extremism through a gender lens has generated great interest and opened new opportunities to shift the conversation and collaborate.


  • Not being limited by the tyranny of ‘OR’; we strive towards the genius of ‘AND’

ICAN’s vision and values, its staffing, operations and activities all have the principle of connectivity at their very core.  To be effective ICAN needs to be realistic, pragmatic, optimistic and creative at the same time. While rooted firmly in its core values and vision, ICAN is also agile and flexible and willing to seize opportunities to further our vision.  We aim to consolidate existing gains and push forward towards genuine equality and peace.  We believes that it is essential to work all stakeholders, policy makers and activists alike, ensuring that regardless of their situation, they have trust in ICAN’s guidance and support.


  • “Building clocks, not just telling time.”

To achieve our goals, ICAN cannot work alone. ICAN needs others to join in the process. ICAN does not wish to be gatekeepers or ‘time tellers’ only, rather it wants its counterparts nationally and internationally to have the knowledge and capacity needed to do the work themselves.  As such, ICAN produces the information and make it publically available.  ICAN is willing to tackle cutting-edge and sensitive issues to promote wider and deeper awareness and increase receptivity and action.


  • Using words and taking action

Change only comes through action. ICAN is dedicated to enabling the activities of our regional and national partners while also acting in the international space itself.  ICAN believes that words, information and analysis are integral to prompting action. ICAN is therefore committed to producing the policy briefs to the highest standards of excellence and objectivity.

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