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Community Contribution

Lucky #7: Meet the Updated CLA Framework, Version 7

Oct 04, 2016
Jessica Ziegler

In our ongoing efforts to articulate what we mean by CLA, we are pleased to announce Version 7 of the CLA Framework. For those of you loyal Learning Lab blog readers who have gotten used to seeing the colorful circular CLA Framework in our posts (especially in the recent series by my colleague Monalisa Salib), we promise that we haven't made hasty or wholesale changes. In fact, the building blocks (CLA in the Program Cycle and Enabling Conditions) and the components (Collaborating, Learning, Adapting, Culture, Processes, and Resources) haven't changed. Instead, Version 7 is all about being more clear and direct with how we explain the subcomponents of CLA. We thought about making a "spot the difference" puzzle out of it, but figured it might be easier to just share the changes with you:

ComponentOld SubcomponentNew Subcomponent
LearningGame Changers & Scenario PlanningScenario Planning
AdaptingApplicationAdaptive Management
CultureRelationship-BuildingRelationships & Networks
ProcessesKnowledge Cycle & SourcesKnowledge Management

So if the changes are so small, you might wonder why we bothered to develop another version.

Just as USAID has made a major push over the last year to reflect on its programmatic processes, collect feedback from staff, and update its guidance, we’ve also been following a similar process. The development of the CLA Framework has been iterative and user-driven from the very beginning. As we worked to create and refine the CLA Maturity Matrix—a participatory, in-person tool to help USAID missions self-assess their CLA practices and plan for incremental improvements—over the past year and a half, the CLA Framework evolved as an organizing principle for the matrix. In testing the matrix and framework with stakeholders, including mission staff, USAID/Washington staff, and implementing partners, we were able to collect, analyze, and incorporate incredibly useful feedback that has helped us to strengthen both the matrix tool and the underlying framework. We made the bulk of the changes to Version 7 in the matrix, but as explained above, some of the feedback did directly impact the framework.

For example, we found when working with mission staff, especially FSNs, that our use of the term "game changers" could be confusing as it doesn't always translate well and is often associated with groundbreaking technologies. Application turned out to be too generic and didn't stand alone as a term unless coupled with its parent CLA component of Adapting, whereas Adaptive Management is a key focus of the new USAID Program Cycle guidance. People often had trouble distinguishing between Relationship-Building and Collaborating, while Relationships & Networks is meant to imply more of a systems focus. And finally, Knowledge Cycle & Sources was just too jargony (although not everyone would agree that Knowledge Management is better, but at least it is an industry-recognized term).

To learn more about the iterative process of developing the CLA Framework and Maturity Matrix, please read our CLA Case Competition entry. And the iterative process won’t stop here, even if #7 is a lucky number. As we continue to collaborate, learn, and adapt ourselves, we will also continue to collect and review feedback to inform future updates to the framework and matrix, albeit at a slower pace moving forward. As always, stay tuned to Learning Lab to learn more!

And now for a simple walk-through of the CLA Framework, Version 7. Click on an area of the framework for an informal overview of the CLA building blocks, components, and subcomponents.


Building Blocks:

  • CLA in the Program Cycle: Our day-to-day work and how collaborating, learning, and adapting is incorporated into strategy, project design, implementation, and M&E.
  • Enabling Conditions: The unspoken norms within our organization as well as the systems and processes in place to facilitate CLA.

Components and Subcomponents:

Collaborating: Being intentional about identifying key stakeholders; promoting collaboration that makes sense with the right people for the right reasons.

  • How well do we collaborate internally?
  • How well do we collaborate externally?

Learning: Understanding what knowledge is important to make decisions since we can’t know everything.

  • Are we identifying our technical evidence base and making a systematized effort to understand and fill in gaps?
  • Are we testing our theories of change in an intentional way?
  • Are we identifying potential risks and opportunities, and engaging in scenario planning to strategize on how to address them?
  • Are our M&E efforts helpful in informing decision-making for current and future programming?

Adapting: Taking the time to consider our learning through opportunities to get out of the day-to-day and look at the bigger picture; if we don’t take time to think, we may miss opportunities or go down the wrong path.

  • Are we holding Pause & Reflect activities in a timely and quality manner that results in learning?
  • Are we effectively applying adaptive management approaches to act on what we learn?

Culture: Our organization’s unspoken norms in terms of being comfortable sharing opinions and ideas, hearing different perspectives, taking action on different ideas, and continuing to improve.

  • Can people be open? Do we create safe spaces to have candid conversations no matter who is in the room?
  • Do we have strong relationships and networks throughout the system we operate in that are based on trust, knowledge sharing, and good communication?
  • Does mission leadership value learning and model that behavior to enable continuous improvement?

Processes: Having the processes in place to operationalize learning.

  • We generate a lot of information, but are we adopting appropriate knowledge management practices to capture, distill, and share what we learn?
  • Are we effectively maintaining our institutional memory for easy access to our collective knowledge? Is knowledge from all staff, including FSNs and departing FSOs, systematically captured and  shared as part of our onboarding processes?
  • Are there clear processes around decision-making and enough autonomy for staff to feel empowered?

Resources: What resources exist to support our CLA efforts (e.g., a learning advisor, support mechanism, etc.) and do they meet existing needs?

  • Within the mission, do staff incorporate CLA into their scope and workload, with sufficient support from the Program Office, champions, and support mechanisms?
  • Do we support CLA in implementing mechanisms by including it in mechanism designs, scopes, and budgets? Are we able and ready to support our partners as they seek to implement CLA practices themselves?