USAID’s Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting Framework

Date Published: October 5, 2016

This blog series through USAID’s Learning Lab explores the components of USAID’s Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting (CLA) Framework, including: 1) organizational culture, 2) effective learning, 3) resources for CLA integration, 4) effective collaboration, 5) supportive processes, and 6) adaptive management. While the work of the Learning Lab primarily focuses on development results, there are important lessons for how we may be able to implement similar approaches for results-based protection. Results-based protection emphasizes an iterative approach whereby we take opportunities to reflect and adapt our programming and approaches to account for updated analysis and changes in context. In order to make this a reality, it is essential that we have the organizational and system culture, resources, and processes that  support collaboration, learning, and most importantly adaptation. A few key points from the blog series:

  • Identify organizational values to assess whether they are supportive of a CLA approach; use visual reminders to keep these values front and center; operationalize supportive values and norms through internal working groups, hiring processes, processes for reflection, and/or initiatives such as giving and receiving feedback
  • Effective learning happens when we consistently test and explore a clearly articulated, high quality theory of change based on evidence, that is logical and relevant to the context
    • Identify key game changers based on the context and the intended results, develop scenarios, and articulate contextualized indicators
    • Effective M&E is designed to help us learn in addition to fulfilling reporting requirements; this requires dedicated investment and resources. One suggestion is to include learning priorities and use data/information to inform program design and implementation in real time
  • CLA requires an investment from the start – including supportive mechanisms, staffing, and budgeting
  • Effective collaboration doesn’t necessarily mean meeting more often, but rather collaborating better and more strategically. Need to define who, why, and what form of collaboration is needed, using different methods for different audiences and purposes.
  • Organizational processes are critical to CLA. Effective organization processes include:
    • Clear and transparent decision-making that enables adaptation at appropriate level,
    • Knowledge management to document and access information and knowledge that ensures transfer of knowledge and provides opportunities for local staff to contribute
    • Knowledge cycle and sources include a variety of key stakeholders that reviews for further analysis and distillation and ensures knowledge is shared in user-friendly formats
  • Collaborating and learning are great, but adapting is essential. Yet operationalizing adaptation remains challenging and elusive. Adaptive management isn’t a straight line and can be promoted throughout the program cycle through reflective methods, facilitation skills, and enabling flexibility.