A specialist in conflict transformation processes, strategy development and program design, with a particular focus on theories of change integrating socio-political processes and media activities, Frances Fortune has worked with several national and international NGOs in Africa. Being situated with civil society in West Africa, and living in Sierra Leone for the past 30 years, enabled Frances to understand the Sierra Leonean conflict in a unique way and provided an extraordinary platform for learning through doing. Frances brought non-traditional actors into the mainstream of the post war recovery process, specifically the civil militias and other ex-combatants involving child soldiers and women, providing a voice to those who normally don’t have one. She also initiated reconciliation programming in Sierra Leone through the Catholic Church. The post recovery period in the Mano River Union of West Africa provided an opportunity to undertake innovative projects, and Frances was uniquely positioned to identify and open new spaces for diverse concerns to be mainstreamed in the post-war nation-building exercise.
Frances’ expertise is in conflict-sensitive environments, co-developing strategies with a variety of local actors for supporting and facilitating non-adversarial change, and managing complex projects focusing on impact assessment and results. Recently, Frances worked with Search for Common Ground as the Africa Director supervising strategic development and conflict transformation programming in 17 post-conflict or fragile states in Africa.
As an activist, she is focused on driving forward three areas that are important in her professional and personal life, namely women’s rights and claiming rights; increasing knowledge through community radio; and civil society engagement in political reform. Her projects have been designed to push the boundaries with local actors. Her projects create opportunities and open the space for civil society to engage in policy dialogue and contribute to analysis; generate institutional development of organizations to stimulate the national conversation in a sustainable way. Frances and her colleagues were challenged in the courts to defend their rights, specifically around freedom of speech and assocation. Winning the case has increased the democratic space for other activists. In response to media deregulation across Africa in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Frances worked with national partners to establish community radio as a tool for peacebuilding in over 40 communities, reinforcing community ownership and an engendered editorial of the stations. She co-founded an organization called Independent Radio Network which serves as an aggregator for community radio and protects these vulnerable institutions from predation through strong peer networks.
As a theorist, Frances frames her learning in a conflict management logic, analyzing position and interests, champions and spoilers, and using listening and framing to enhance understand about conflict issues.
Frances has a wealth of experience and knowledge regarding post-conflict states, nation-building and post-conflict reform agenda-setting in Africa. She has piloted several initatives conducting action research in conflict-sensitive environments, and using findings to break open new spaces for engagement for problem solving and solution seeking. As a strategic advisor, Frances has sought to ensure learning in integral to program design and evaluation using participatory frameworks.
And today, she is pleased to continue this learning process, studying in the Global Social Governance theme at the Balsillie School of International Affairs.