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Community Contribution

A Closer Look at the LEARN End of Contract Report: Part 1

Jun 08, 2020
Sarah Schmidt, Monalisa Salib

In September 2014, USAID’s Office of Learning, Evaluation & Research within the Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning awarded the Knowledge Management and Learning (LEARN) contract to Dexis and subcontractor RTI. LEARN’s primary purpose was to support organizational change at USAID. More specifically, the contract was designed to help USAID staff integrate collaborating, learning, and adapting (CLA) approaches into program design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. It was clear that most staff, whether they realized it or not, were already integrating CLA into their work to some extent. The focus of the contract's efforts, therefore, was to make those CLA practices more systematic, intentional, resourced, and ultimately more widespread throughout the Agency, thereby having a ripple effect on implementing partners and other stakeholders, such as host country governments. As the contract comes to a close, the team involved shares the lessons they’ve learned through this five and a half year change management effort.

In Chapter 1, you’ll find out more about what LEARN was able to achieve as a result of its partnership with the CLA team and 32 buy-in clients from across the Agency and 14 USAID missions. When LEARN began in 2014, very little was documented about what CLA was or how to do it. At the time, 32 missions that were collaborating, learning, or adapting in relatively small ways. By late 2015, the CLA team and LEARN co-created the CLA Framework and CLA Maturity Tool that provided common language for CLA and articulated how it could show up in and support the team’s work. Building off this foundation, LEARN worked throughout the contract to show that CLA was an effective set of practices to improve organizational effectiveness and development results.

By the contract’s end in early 2020, LEARN had collected robust examples from 61 USAID missions of their systematic, intentional, and resourced approach to CLA via the CLA Case Competition; had worked with all of the Agency’s technical and regional bureaus on CLA integration; had catalogued hundreds of instances of CLA integration; and had amassed an over 500-person strong CLA Community of Practice within the Agency. Beyond the numbers, the LEARN team had countless stories and qualitative feedback from our clients and stakeholders that CLA integration was creating positive change in their teams and units. You’ll also see in Chapter 1 the team’s realization (which seems painfully obvious but is overlooked by so many) that people create organizational change; they either decide to work in certain ways or don’t. It comes down to the decisions they make and behaviors they exhibit day in, day out. Therefore, at the heart of LEARN’s theory of change is the notion that individual CLA champions within the Agency are the key drivers of individual behavior change, which is a necessary precursor to organizational change.

LEARN’s core work then became more focused on identifying, supporting, and strengthening the capacity of CLA champions across the Agency. The team provided them with evidence that intentional CLA efforts lead to more effective development programming; facilitated learning based processes that strengthened USAID’s Program Cycle; and developed and curated CLA tools and resources, training, and communities to build CLA skills and capacity.

Read the full report to learn more!