Skip to main content
Community Contribution

Reflections on Bite-Sized Learning: CLA Paves the Way for Putting Evidence and Learning to Use

Jun 17, 2024
Winston J. Allen, PhD

As development practitioners, we all strive toward evidence-based decision-making. But we also know there are so many reasons why that is often hard to do. Earlier this month, I was invited to join the latest session in the Bite-Sized Learning series exploring how CLA best practices can support development practitioners and the stakeholders with whom they work to confront this layered challenge and ensure that the right information is available at the right time. 

We all know that effective programmatic decisions depend on good quality and reliable evidence. Good quality evidence is an important ingredient for making strong and confident programmatic decisions. There are several efforts going on in evidence building, and to further improve the use of evidence in programmatic decisions across the Agency. Recently, we launched the Evidence to Action Briefs, which provide USAID Missions an opportunity to showcase how evidence from evaluations are being transformed into programmatic and policy decisions. For example, in one of the briefs, the Government of Nepal used the evaluation findings from an impact evaluation of USAID’s Early Grade Reading Program (EGRP) in Nepal to inform the selection of priority actions in basic education and develop a plan to scale up the NEGRP to new districts. In general, good quality evidence allows for transparency in the process of making decisions with stakeholders. Here is where CLA and Evidence intersect: effective CLA depends on having the right information at the right time to inform the decisions we need to make. 

Panelists Dr. Christelle-Elie Safi, MEL and CLA Team Lead for the USAID Water Sanitation and Conservation (WSC) Project in Lebanon and Camelia Gheorghe, Chief of Party for the DATA FOR IMPACT (D4I) activity highlighted this throughout the discussion. They each demonstrated and provided insights into the role of CLA as a practical and applied process for engaging stakeholders and transforming evidence into decision-making. The cases also demonstrate the value of the participatory elements of CLA in translating evidence into action, by serving as a catalyst for creating a culture of evidence use in decision-making, across diverse organizations, and at different levels of program operations.

For example, the case from Moldova shows how, through decisions from the CLA process, a Data Review Room with intelligent screens and technology was established to enable stakeholders to visualize data from multiple sources in one place, thereby facilitating action planning and making decisions based on best available information. As Camelia mentioned in the discussion, these Data Review Rooms allowed the team to be especially adaptive under pressing political circumstances where the environment was in flux. These spaces allowed the team to provide and use crucial data to respond to the needs of over 100,000 immigrants in Moldova, many of them children. Camelia credits the regular use of CLA practices to the team’s ability to contend with challenging circumstances. 

Dr. Safi highlighted how her team’s work in Lebanon used CLA to bring together stakeholders that included consumers and the water suppliers to interrogate data from needs assessments involving civil society organizations, women and youth, to make decisions on how to promote a culture of responsible water consumption. Christelle’s team used pause and reflect sessions to find opportunities to connect with key stakeholders and bring them into the process. Through this effort, the team engaged with the Scouts of Lebanon, a youth group active across the country, and provided the organization with a grant to support broader education efforts.

In general, the cases presented in the session demonstrate an inclusive approach to evidence use through CLA. They show how stakeholders with diverse interests can come together around available evidence and information to reflect, discuss, and  jointly solve common challenges.

Visit the Bite-Sized Learning series page to see resources from other sessions.

About the authors
Winston J. Allen

Dr. Winston J. Allen is the Agency Evaluation Officer, located in USAID’s Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning (PPL). He has over 30 years of experience in international development program evaluation, project planning and design, and social science research.