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Is it time to consider "Communication" as a sub-component of the CLA Framework?

Oct 17, 2023
Aniefiok Dominic Effiong

Recently, I had the privilege of facilitating a capacity-building training in Collaboration, Learning, and Adapting (CLA) for a USAID Implementing Partner. Our journey into the world of CLA led us to a profound realization that may redefine the future of development projects: the undeniable importance of communication in collaboration.

As we explored the "collaboration" component of the CLA framework, a resounding message echoed through the room: "Without effective communication, collaboration, whether internal or external, is destined to falter." Nevertheless, collaboration cannot happen without communication. This was a key takeaway from the team's discussion on Collaboration.

The Project Management Institute's Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) underscores that project managers allocate a substantial portion of their time, roughly 75-90%, to communication. This data raises a compelling question: if such a considerable amount of time is dedicated to communication within projects, isn't it clear that effective communication is intricately tied to a project's success?

Indeed, it's hardly surprising that a robust connection exists between effective communication and the overall success of projects. Effective communication is a cornerstone in project management, facilitating the seamless exchange of information, promoting teamwork, and ensuring everyone involved remains aligned and informed. In essence, the quality of communication often determines the course of a project, and it plays a pivotal role in achieving successful outcomes.

Unpacking the CLA Framework

Before we delve deeper into the essential role of communication, let's take a moment to understand what Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting (CLA) truly mean. CLA is the systematic and purposeful approach to enhance development effectiveness. In other words, it is a set of practices put in place to help organizations or projects collaborate, learn, and adapt more systematically and intentionally. USAID defines it as "a set of processes and activities that help ensure programming is coordinated, grounded in evidence, and adjusted as necessary to remain effective throughout implementation" (ADS 201, 2016). It provides a structured path for organizations and projects to tailor CLA practices to their unique contexts.

CLA framework

The CLA framework comprises various components and subcomponents, offering flexibility and cohesion. Two key dimensions define its scope:

  • CLA in the Program Cycle: This dimension emphasizes the integration of CLA into every stage of the Program Cycle, including strategy development, project design, and activity implementation.
  • Enabling Conditions: Here, the focus shifts to an organization's culture, business processes, and resource allocation—the pillars that either support or hinder the seamless integration of CLA.

The Importance of Intentional Communication

Now, let's imagine the potential of making communication a standalone sub-component within the Collaboration component of the CLA framework. This shift will empower development projects to craft comprehensive communication plans that detail how they will engage with stakeholders at each stage of their program cycle. This approach will ensure that communication is not merely a byproduct of collaboration; it becomes an integral part of the development process.

Here are compelling reasons why communication deserves this elevated status within CLA:

  • Stakeholder Engagement: Prioritizing communication ensures active engagement with stakeholders throughout the project lifecycle. Engaging stakeholders in decision-making processes and sharing progress updates builds a sense of ownership and commitment.
  • Learning Through Dialogue: In a world where knowledge evolves rapidly, open communication channels facilitate the exchange of ideas, experiences, and insights. This dynamic learning environment encourages adaptability and innovation.
  • Transparency and Accountability: Transparency is a cornerstone of successful development projects. Integrating communication as a sub-component within the CLA framework ensures that all project actions and decisions are communicated clearly, promoting accountability.
  • Alignment with Organizational Culture: Communication also aligns with an organization's cultural values. It transforms communication from a mere tool into a cultural norm, ensuring everyone understands its importance.
  • Feedback Loops: Effective communication allows for continuous feedback loops, enabling teams to adapt and improve their strategies and processes as they learn from experiences and stakeholder input

How Can This Be Achieved?

So, how can we make this transformation a reality? It begins with developing a communication strategy/plan for all development projects. This strategy should align with the stakeholders' analysis in the collaboration sub-component of the CLA framework. This will bridge the gap and create a holistic and intentional approach where every facet of our collaboration is deliberately and purposefully built around effective communication. This alignment not only ensures that our project goals are well understood but also that they are achieved with the precision and efficiency that intentional communication affords.

A Call to Action

In conclusion, the time has come to recognize communication as a foundational pillar of the CLA framework. By doing so, we acknowledge its pivotal role in fostering collaboration, enabling learning, and driving adaptability within development projects. We should not merely weave communication into the fabric of our work; We should elevate it to the status it rightfully deserves. After all, in a world where progress hinges on shared understanding, effective communication is not just an option—it's the pathway to success.

About the authors
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Aniefiok Dominic Effiong

Aniefiok Dominic Effiong is the Collaborating Learning and Adapting (CLA) Specialist with Dexis Consulting