Three CLA New Year’s Resolutions Proven to Improve your Work Life and Effectiveness in 2019

Feb 4, 2019 by Kat Haugh Comments (0)

This visual summarizes key findings from the most recent CLA Case Competition Analysis.

How has it been going with your New Year’s resolutions?

Research shows that about half of all adults, globally, make New Year’s resolutions. However, fewer than 10% manage to keep them for more than a few months. The main reason that people do not stick to their resolutions is that they set too many, or the resolutions they commit to are unrealistic.

This research echoes a recommendation from our recent analysis of collaborating, learning and adapting (CLA) case studies captured in the annual CLA Case Competition: start with small, manageable changes first if you want to change the way you and others work. One of the easiest routes to failure is to have too many resolutions. If you want to feel more engaged and satisfied in your work or have more impact as a team, do one small thing at a time.

In this analysis, we revisited key findings from the 2015 CLA Case Competition Analysis to explore enablers and barriers to CLA that contribute to organizational improvement and development outcomes. We took a fresh look at 83 case studies of CLA approaches used by USAID staff and implementing partners around the world. Of the 83 cases, 63 of them showed how CLA contributed to either improvement in organizational effectiveness and/or to better development results. Our team focused on those 63 cases to understand how -- and under what conditions -- CLA approaches have led to positive and specific results. 
The suggested recommendations below emerged from our analysis of these case studies. Starting small could mean:
  1. Encouraging yourself and your team to take time at the end of a work day to pause and reflect. Our case study analysis revealed that when individuals and teams take time to pause and reflect on their work together, they are able to be more impactful. That’s because taking time to pause and reflect helps teams better understand the challenges and opportunities in their work and decide on what adaptations can lead to improvement. In addition, reflecting as a group builds a mutual understanding that fosters collaboration.

    To see this in action, read about how the Education Crisis Response (ECR) team in Nigeria developed a series of reflection moments in their work to expand access to quality and relevant non-formal education for internally displaced and out-of-school children and youth. The ECR team used reflection moments to process data, review progress, and make decisions together to adapt their work strategically. With more opportunities to reflect on the information they gathered from their partner communities, the ECR team was able to tailor instructional topics to local demand for vocational skills, and focus more on girls’ education. As a result, non-formal learning centers dedicated to girls were established and located close to their homes. Learning facilitators were trained to use inclusive teaching strategies, hygiene supplies were provided, locally relevant vocational skills for girls were offered, and mothers’ clubs were established to promote girls’ education. As a result of these reflections and adaptations, ECR increased the enrollment of girls in non-formal learning centers by 17% since its first year. Now, 57% of learners enrolled across all centers are female.

  2. Emphasizing what you and your teammates are already doing to collaborate, learn, and adapt effectively and creating more opportunities for your team to experience CLA. In our analysis, we found that once teams and individuals try one CLA approach themselves or see others trying it, they are more likely to continue trying other CLA approaches or scaling up the initial activity they tried. That’s because once individuals and teams experience CLA firsthand or hear about the firsthand experiences of their peers, they understand the benefits of the approach and want to share and expand them. 

    For example, the staff of Feed the Future’s Mawa Project experienced CLA first through a series of evaluative thinking (ET) workshops and then, seeing its value firsthand, actively embedded CLA approaches into other areas of their work, such as encouraging staff to interrogate monitoring data and actively seek and engage with a wider array of perspectives in interpreting data. The ET workshops focused on helping staff to develop an attitude of inquisitiveness and a belief in the value of evidence that involves uncovering assumptions. As a result of this initial CLA activity, the Mawa team has experienced significant internal changes that have resulted in positive impacts in their work with partners. The team recognized that the ET workshops themselves were a CLA activity and emphasized the connection between what the team was already doing and the CLA practices they were exploring. The team now conducts joint monitoring and learning visits with government ministry counterparts and is actively trying to transfer CLA practices to their government counterparts for sustainability purposes.

  3. Ensuring you and your teammates have opportunities to internalize data to inform your decisions. Our case study analysis showed that using feedback loops increases the likelihood that evidence will inform decision-making. That’s because feedback loops help teams and individuals to continuously analyze the information they receive and then make decisions based on that information. A critical piece of this process is for teams and individuals to interrogate and interpret information, as opposed to just passively receiving it, so they can effectively make decisions based on what they’ve learned. Take a look at these data internalization exercises that LEARN has tried with our team to learn more.

    To see this in action, read about how district health executive (DHE) teams in Zimbabwe continuously analyzed community scorecard data to understand major health challenges facing communities and took action to reduce barriers to care based on what they learned. Internalizing and acting on community scorecard data resulted in multiple instances of the DHE team achieving their goals. For example, in a rural clinic service area, patients complained of drug shortages. Through interrogating the data they received, the DHE team determined that the issue was non-adherent patients who later needed second-line drugs. In response, they conducted drug and treatment literacy interventions with clinics. Another clinic was not achieving its results because it did not have the funding needed to procure drugs in a timely manner. As a result, the DHE team escalated the issue and the clinic received funds and began treating more patients. At another clinic, the scorecard identified issues regarding the attitudes and behaviors of clinic staff towards their patients. The DHE team raised the issue with the health center committee, which met with the nurse in charge of the clinic and attitudes improved.
Are any of these CLA New Year’s resolutions relevant to your work? If so, will you commit to trying one of them? We’d love to hear how it went. Katherine Haugh at looks forward to hearing your story.


What I Learned about Cows and CLA Champions

Aug 1, 2016 by Katherine Haugh Comments (0)

Did you know that there are roughly 145 cows per square kilometer in Bangladesh? This was one of the many things I learned at a recent CLA in Action brown bag event with presenter Osagie C. Aimiuwu. After Osagie’s presentation, for reasons that I truly can’t explain, I spent an unreasonable amount of time on Google learning about the cows of the world. As a vegetarian, I’ll admit this was strange behavior. I learned that India has the highest number of cows per square kilometer (followed closely by China and Brazil) and that Uruguay has the highest ratio of cows to humans in the world.

Image of men with cows in Bangladesh

So, why did Osagie kick off his CLA presentation with cow facts? I’m sure he didn’t intend to spark an enthusiasm for cows amongst the audience (though that certainly happened for me). The answer: he had a beef with the Bangladeshi Dairy Sector. As an Agriculture Development Officer in the USAID Bangladesh Office, Osagie discovered that the amount of milk that was being produced in Bangladesh was low despite the high number of cows in the country. Compared to China and India, which produce roughly 10 liters per cow every day, Bangladesh only produces 2-3 liters of milk per cow every day. Why? Osagie sought to find out the answer.

He started by identifying six major livestock projects in the country. He met individually with each of the six projects to better understand their existing activities and goals. He then identified areas of overlap across the six projects. He learned that despite the fact that the teams were often doing the same things and working towards similar goals, they were not collaborating or coordinating their efforts. This was leading to a duplication of effort and decreased impact across the six projects. As Osagie explained during his presentation he, “saw a need for collaboration and set out to fill it.”

Osagie went back to each individual project and outlined the direct benefits they would see if they collaborated with other projects. He “did his homework and brought the facts” in order to gain their support. With all six projects on board, Osagie formed the Bangladesh Livestock Coordination Group. The group meets quarterly to discuss methods for implementing activities and reviews lessons learned from unsuccessful and successful practices. During these meetings, the activities, goals, and donor requirements for each of the six projects were not always aligned. In those instances, Osagie identified the issue that was common amongst all players and focused on that one. Through collaboration, the six projects continue to adapt their practices based on what they learn from one another. We have yet to see what this collaboration means for milk production in Bangladesh but Osagie has high hopes that the overall impact will be positive.

Osagie credits the success of the quarterly meetings to the enabling environment in which they took place. He emphasized openness and relationship building as key success factors. Osagie explained that in order to facilitate a complicated group dynamic like this one, facilitators need to be:

  1. Transparent about their own intentions. Osagie directly told each of the six projects what his motives for setting up the Coordination Group were. This won him the trust of the projects.

  2. Clear about the benefits of CLA. Osagie went to each of the six projects and explained how practicing CLA would help them to better achieve their individual and collective goals. This won him the support from the projects.

  3. Good listeners. Osagie never dictated to the group. He let everyone talk and focused on listening to them. In order to let them know he heard them, he would often repeat back what they said. Moreover, he made sure that everyone had the opportunity to speak (by asking them directly for their opinions) and treated everyone as equals. This won him the respect from the projects.

In addition to the cow facts, I learned what a CLA champion looks like by hearing how Osagie made the case for collaborating, learning, and adapting in Bangladesh. My biggest take away from the event was how essential relationship building and good facilitation skills are to integrating CLA. Take a look at the visual notes I created (below) during the presentation for more highlights.

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