What is it?
Integrating CLA into how we design and implement programming in an intentional and systematic way requires adequate resources. For example, strategic collaboration requires staff time to identify and engage the right stakeholders. An investment of time is also required to build trusting relationships and partnerships that leverage individual strengths for collective benefit. Learning and adapting require that we invest in effective knowledge management and MEL systems, and that we take time to reflect on what we learn to inform our decisions.
There are three main ways to resource CLA in the USAID context:
Activities. The main way USAID carries out its development assistance is through interventions called “activities,” funded through implementing mechanisms. One of the biggest obstacles to CLA can be lack of flexibility in how funding mechanisms are designed and managed. Resourcing CLA in implementing mechanisms means:
- Incorporating CLA in the procurement process
- Incorporating CLA in solicitations
- Incorporating CLA in activity management
For more on this topic, see the CLA in Activity Design & Implementation section in the CLA Toolkit.
Support mechanisms are also used by USAID operating units to resource MEL and CLA throughout the Program Cycle, providing supplemental CLA capacity for specific activities, specific projects, or for the entire portfolio of the mission or OU.
Staffing. Staff members are our greatest asset. Resourcing CLA through staffing means:
- Hiring staff with the skills necessary to effectively collaborate, learn and adapt
- Assigning clear roles and responsibilities for CLA, and including CLA-related objectives in performance evaluations
- Training current staff in CLA-related knowledge and skills
- Proactively making time for staff to pursue learning and reflection opportunities
Budgeting. Missions, operating units, and implementing partners should allocate funds for CLA-related activities or processes highlighted throughout the CLA framework. Illustrative costs include:
- Facilitators, venues, and other costs associated with collaboration, learning, and pause and reflect events as well as activities with partners and stakeholders.
- Knowledge management and institutional memory systems, such as filing systems and intranets.
- Investments in learning activities, such as context and performance monitoring, mid-term and final evaluations, operational research, and other assessments.
- Communications support to adequately document, distill, and disseminate key learning for decision-makers and other stakeholders.
- Support for leadership development and team-building activities that can foster a learning culture, improve relationships among staff, and clarify decision-making processes.
Guidance and Tools
How do I get started?
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to resourcing CLA because each Mission and organization’s needs will be different. That said, here are some important tips to keep in mind when resourcing CLA:
- Think beyond financial resources. You don’t always need money to integrate CLA. Think first about what resources you already have access to. What existing processes or opportunities can be leveraged?
- Be realistic and right-size your resource needs. You never want to under- or over-resource your CLA efforts. Our focus has always been on “right-sizing” your CLA approach and practice to your context, needs, and objectives. We are not collaborating, learning, and adapting for the sake of it, but to be more effective. And if that’s the case, we need to accurately budget for our CLA efforts.
- Don’t under resource your efforts. Some common items that may be forgotten when planning for CLA include: the time it takes to coordinate logistics for large, in-person events; the technology needed for virtual collaboration; effective facilitators with familiarity in adult learning and participatory approaches; time to carry out and manage assessments and other learning efforts; and the resources needed to help stakeholders communicate about, internalize, and use evidence.
- Encourage others to resource CLA. Collaborating, learning, and adapting should not only be an internally focused effort within USAID missions or international partners. We should model CLA with our local partners and counterparts, and encourage them to dedicate the resources required to collaborate, learn, and adapt effectively. If we don’t, we won’t leverage the learning that exists among local partners, have critical local stakeholders to work with, or be able to increase the level of ownership for development programming among local actors.
Making the Case
Having the right staff with the right CLA skills is key to success. A 2016 study on DFID-funded adaptive programming in practice found that character traits and competencies (such as curiosity, facilitation, and teamwork) were directly related to the ability of teams to achieve their outcomes. There is documented evidence about the risk of ignoring CLA.
Several studies in the corporate sector have focused on the benefits of resource investment in collaboration. A literature review of corporate strategic alliances and models of collaboration highlighted the significant gains that collaborating partners received from leveraging resource capabilities, social capital, and knowledge sharing.