Friday, June 16
2017 Submission Deadline
Tuesday, September 12
Thank you to all who entered the 2017 Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting Case Competition! The submission period was Monday, May 1 - Friday, June 16 and the winners will be announced in September.
While you wait...
- Listen to the USAID Learning Lab podcast
- Check out the NEW CLA Toolkit
- Browse the 2015 and 2016 cases.
The CLA Case Competition captures real-life case studies of USAID staff and implementing partners using a CLA approach for organizational learning and better development outcomes. This is not a call for traditional success stories; we want to hear what’s working well, what you’re struggling with, and what you’ve learned along the way. It can be about something big, or about one small practice that made an important difference to your work. For example, maybe you've used an evaluation to adapt or improve your programming. Learn more about what we're looking for.
Your case submission will showcase your team’s innovation and expertise, helping us all move the needle on strategic collaboration, continuous learning, and adaptive management. All eligible case studies will be featured on USAID Learning Lab and may be shared via communications channels such as our blog, @USAIDLearning, and at CLA events in Washington, DC and beyond. Browse the 2015 and 2016 cases.
Five winning cases will be recognized at a CLA event in Washington, DC and one representative of each case will receive expense-paid travel to the event.
The competition is open to all types of individuals and organizations working with USAID.
What is Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting (CLA)?
In 2012, USAID’s Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning (PPL) introduced the concept of collaborating, learning, and adapting at USAID as a way to operationalize adaptive management throughout USAID’s Program Cycle. Collaborating, learning, and adapting (CLA) -- USAID’s approach to improving organizational learning -- is intended to help USAID and its implementing partners address common challenges that pervade international development assistance, including when:
- Coordination among donors and implementers is lacking, resulting in missed opportunities for greater impact
- Development is donor-driven, rather than country-led or community-owned
- Data and evidence that could inform programming are not utilized
- Outdated practices are still used despite evidence of their ineffectiveness
- Programming is not relevant to the local context
- Donors and implementing partners stick to existing plans and implementation approaches even as the context changes
As development practitioners, USAID staff and implementing partners do their best to avoid these common pitfalls. However, significant demands on time, limited resources, and a need to show immediate results often means that collaborating, learning, and adapting (CLA) effectively to overcome these challenges remains elusive.
In the simplest terms, integrating collaborating, learning, and adapting throughout the Program Cycle can help development practitioners address the above challenges by thinking through:
- Collaborating: Are we collaborating with the right partners at the right time to promote synergy over stovepiping?
- Learning: Are we asking the most important questions and finding answers that are relevant to decision making?
- Adapting: Are we using the information that we gather through collaboration and learning activities to make better decisions and make adjustments as necessary?
- Enabling Conditions: Are we working in an organizational environment that supports our collaborating, learning, and adapting efforts?
The CLA Framework
While collaborating, learning, and adapting are not new to USAID or international development in general, they often do not happen regularly or systematically and are not intentionally resourced. To address this, USAID/PPL and its support mechanism, The Learning and Knowledge Management mechanism (LEARN), developed a Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting (CLA) framework to help USAID missions and implementing partners think more deliberately about how to plan for and implement CLA approaches that fit their context and assist them in achieving their development objectives.
Graphic: CLA framework supports implementation of USAID’s Program Cycle.
The CLA framework identifies components and subcomponents to help USAID staff and partners think more deliberately about what approach to CLA might be best tailored to an organizational or programming context. The framework recognizes the diversity of what CLA can look like in various organizations and projects while also giving CLA structure, clarity, and coherence across two key dimensions:
- CLA in the Program Cycle (portion shaded in red on the left-hand side of the CLA framework above): how CLA is incorporated throughout Program Cycle processes, including strategy, project, and activity design and implementation; and
- Enabling Conditions (portion shaded in dark blue on the right-hand side of the CLA framework above): how an organization’s culture, business processes, and resource allocation support CLA integration.
Organizations need both integrated CLA practices appropriate for their context and conducive enabling conditions to become stronger learning organizations capable of managing adaptively. The framework stresses the holistic and integrated nature of the various components of CLA to reinforce the principle that CLA is not a separate workstream—it should be integrated into existing processes to strengthen the discipline of development and improve aid effectiveness.
The 2017 Case Study form asks submitters to identify up to three subcomponents of the CLA Framework that are most reflected in their case. View the CLA Framework two-pager to learn more about what each of the subcomponents mean.
How to Enter
Step 1: Download and complete the 2017 Case Study Form (Be sure to open and edit the PDF in Adobe Acrobat, not your browser. Changes will NOT be saved if you edit in your browser.), save it and email it as an attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org with "2017 CLA Case Competition" in the subject line.
- Be sure to upload a high-resolution photo and include a photo caption and credit (required). See below for tips on uploading a photo.
- The word limits are approximate; you can fill each text box. Please remove the help text and word limit text in response boxes before submitting.
Step 2: Complete this webform.
Need help? Email email@example.com.
Tips for uploading a photo in the 2017 Case Study Form:
1. Click on the photo upload box.
2. Click on “browse” to select a photo saved on your computer.
3. By default, the browser window will search for .pdf files. Use the file type drop-down menu to choose the appropriate file type.
4. Be sure to add a photo caption and credit. See below for an example.
What We're Looking For
This is not a call for traditional success stories; we want to hear what’s working well, what you’re struggling with, and what you’ve learned along the way. It can be about something big, or about one small practice that made an important difference to your work.
Your case can be an example of M&E for learning, adaptive management, evaluation utilization, pause & reflect, strategic collaboration, continuous learning & improvement... and more! For example, one of the many topics around CLA that we're interested in are cases of Missions and Implementing Partners learning from USAID external evaluations and using them in order to adapt and improve development programming.
Here are examples of how others have used a CLA approach:
- USAID/TANZANIA: The USAID/Tanzania Program Office developed a Program Funded Action Cover Sheet in response to feedback that the clearance processes for program-funded actions was cumbersome and opaque. The Program Office solicited feedback across the Mission to create the cover sheet and continually adds new features.
- MERCY CORPS IN SYRIA: When traditional tools and processes for managing programs proved inadequate to address the challenges of such complex and volatile environments, Mercy Corps created agile systems to work strategically in Syria. They adapted financial and compliance processes and developed robust alternatives, such as a matrix of supporting documentation.
- SOCIAL IMPACT IN LIBERIA: The Ebola crisis in Liberia clarified the importance of coordination, community engagement, and mobilization for emergency response and for development. Liberia Strategic Analysis, a comprehensive monitoring, evaluation, and learning support contract that ensures that the USAID mission has the real-time evidence base it needs to learn and adapt, designed four communities of practice, one for each of the mission’s development objectives, to help aid workers coordinate better on emergency response and development.
For more examples of CLA in action:
- Listen to the USAID Learning Lab podcast
- Episode 2: Stop, Collaborate and Listen (Examples of Collaboration)
- Episode 3: How (and Why) USAID is Learning
- Episode 4: How USAID is Adapting (coming soon!)
- Explore the 2016 CLA Case Competition submissions through the lens of the CLA framework in USAID Learning Lab's Framing CLA blog series
- Browse the 2015 and 2016 CLA Case Competition submissions
Eligibility, Judging & Prizes
Who may enter?
The competition is open to all individuals and all types of organizations (charitable organizations, private companies, or public entities) working with USAID from all countries. We will consider all entries that:
- Use a collaborating, learning, and adapting approach
- Are associated with USAID in some way. The specific activity doesn't necessarily have to be funded by USAID; however, USAID must somehow be connected to the work, such as through collaboration or a partnership, or through an IP improving their own internal CLA-related work, which by extension impacts the work they do with USAID.
- Are submitted in English by June 16, 2017 at 5:00 pm EDT (be sure to complete steps 1 & 2!).
How will my case study be judged?
A panel of judges from USAID’s Bureau for Policy, Planning, and Learning and the USAID LEARN contract will review entries using the following criteria:
- Detailed description of your CLA approach - While the technical details of your work are important for context, we’re more interested in your CLA approach. Describe specific CLA activities and explain how the connect to the organizational or project outcome you are trying to achieve.
- Reflective analysis of CLA approach - What enabled your CLA approach? What challenges did you encounter? How did CLA change your team dynamic or project/activity outcomes? We welcome transparency.
- Connection to the CLA Framework - This year, we’re requiring submitters to identify and discuss the subcomponents of the CLA Framework that are reflected in their case. Read about the subcomponents on page two of this document and choose up to five that best match your CLA case study. The more subcomponents you can identify, the better.
How will winning cases be recognized?
All eligible CLA case studies will be posted on USAID Learning Lab and may be featured in a USAID Learning Lab blog post or podcast, shared via @USAIDLearning, or showcased at CLA events in Washington, DC and beyond.
Submitters* of the top five case studies will receive expense-paid travel to share their story at an annual CLA event in Washington, DC, in fall 2017 (exact date TBD).
*Please note that while USAID staff are encouraged to participate in the CLA Case Competition, they are not eligible to receive expense-paid travel due to government regulation. USAID staff will still be identified and promoted as winners, and those based outside of Washington, DC may choose a DC-based alternate to represent their case at the CLA event. Additionally, while we can help by providing letters of invitation, USAID/PPL and USAID LEARN are not responsible for ensuring the issuance of travel visas, so expense-paid travel awards are contingent upon the recipient successfully obtaining a visa in a timely manner.
The 2016 CLA Case Competition submission period lasted from June 1—July 15 and resulted in 63 qualifying entries from 11 USAID missions and operating units and 37 implementing partners in 26 countries. A team of judges from the USAID LEARN contract read all 63 entries and selected finalists to be reviewed by a panel of judges in the USAID Bureau for Policy, Planning, and Learning. After much deliberation, five top cases were identified. Winners were announced in September and awards were distributed to winners at a CLA event in November 2016.
The 2016 CLA Case Competition Winner and Finalist Cases are:
What is the purpose of the CLA Case Competition?
The CLA Case Competition captures real-life case studies of USAID staff and implementing partners using a CLA approach for organizational learning and better development outcomes. Your case studies contribute to USAID’s evidence base of what works and what doesn’t in adaptive management.
Can I submit a case about a project or activity that is just getting started?
Yes, we welcome examples of newer CLA activities or approaches that are just beginning. Documenting your work for this competition can enable you to be more systematic, intentional, and resourced about CLA in the future. It can also allow you to track your progress as you implement your programming.
Do cases have to represent only USAID-funded work?
The specific activity doesn't necessarily have to be funded by USAID; however, USAID must somehow be connected to the work, such as through collaboration or a partnership, or through an IP improving their own internal CLA-related work, which by extension impacts the work they do with USAID. If you have a non-USAID case that you'd like to share, we encourage you to contribute it as a blog post or resource on Learning Lab!
Can case stories be submitted in languages other than English?
Unfortunately, we are not able to process and display case stories in any language other than English.
Can I submit more than one case story?
Yes. Individuals and organizations are welcome to share up to three (3) entries. Please complete a separate entry form for each submission.
Can I edit my entry once it has been submitted?
If you have an updated entry or additional material you’d like included with your entry, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be as clear as possible when emailing us as to which entry you are contacting us about.
Who is sponsoring the CLA Case Competition?
The competition is an initiative of the LEARN contract, a mechanism out of the USAID Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning, Office of Learning, Evaluation and Research (PPL/LER).
The CLA Case Competition is managed by USAID LEARN, a Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning (PPL) mechanism implemented by Dexis Consulting Group and its partner, Engility Corporation.