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South-South Triangular Cooperation in Indonesia Institutionalizes Reflection and Learning to Capture and Employ Promising Practices

Apr 20, 2015
Bari Rabin

It’s a new day for Indonesia as an emerging political and economic global leader and as the government cultivates a new role for itself as a donor in its own right. By way of the South-South Triangular Cooperation (SSTC), the Government of Indonesia (GOI) is learning by doing to provide its own development assistance, including conceiving, designing, and delivering aid projects to other developing countries in their region with guidance and capacity support from USAID. 

The primary collaboration in the project takes place through co-investment in Triangular Pilot Activities in which the government of Indonesia provides assistance to developing countries through its National Coordination Team (NCT), building its own capacity to do so by partnering with USAID (the third party of the triangle) for guidance in planning, decision-making, implementation, monitoring, and reporting. Intervention areas are determined by third country demand and Indonesia/USAID sectoral expertise, including democracy, rights, and governance; disaster risk reduction; science and technology; health; education; and environment. To date, Triangular Pilot Activities have included knowledge transfer workshops on Disaster Risk Management (June 2013), Democratic Transitions in Arab Countries (September 2013), and Arab and African Countries Good Governance (May 2014). 

SSTC is an inherently “CLA” ( collaborating, learning and adapting) -type of project. Its goal is to advance global development issues of mutual interest between the government of Indonesia, the U.S. government and a country partner. By carrying out donor activities, recipient countries will benefit while the GOI strengthens its knowledge of development frameworks and practices. 

Partnership, collaboration, and learning from experience are all key to the SSTC project, both guiding the initiative’s design and shaping its delivery approach as the team takes cues from experience on the ground to steer the project’s course and adapt as needed. 

Because SSTC involves an innovative approach, many at USAID and in the  wider donor community are watching for the lessons that will emerge. Aware of this opportunity for learning, the USAID team is integrating actions throughout the project’s life cycle to ensure that reflection and stocktaking take place on a regular basis and that what is learned is fed back into the project and shared with others who may benefit. The approach for these activities will be laid out in the team’s Collaboration, Learning and Adapting Plan

“We’d like to contribute to the learning (on SSTC),” USAID/Indonesia team member Maiko Uchida explained. “(There are) different stakeholders involved to carry out the project, so what are we going to learn? We want to learn how we are doing in collaboration and what we can improve in our collaboration (as we go) for (subsequent phases of the project).” 

To guide reflection and learning during SSTC project implementation, the USAID project team identified two key questions that are of priority interest: 

  1. Do we see changes in the relationship between USAID and GOI around SSTC? What are the changes and what caused them? and 
  2. Do we see changes in the government of Indonesia’s capacity to coordinate internally and with key stakeholders to implement SSTC projects? What are the changes and what contributed to the capacity increase? 

Through activities such as reflection sessions and After Action Reviews, the team will regularly look back on its work together in light of these priority interests, capturing what has been learned and identifying ways these lessons can best be applied. 

Joint research is another key learning activity. USAID Democracy and Governance officer Miranda Jolicoeur noted the importance the SSTC project gives to participatory approaches that engage Indonesian civil society organizations, universities and the private sector in developing SSTC’s learning agenda, developing new approaches, and broadening the reach of SSTC’s development results by sharing the knowledge and lessons learned.

Peer learning between USAID and government agencies in Indonesia is another key aspect to the capacity building pillar of the project and will take place through staff exchanges, study visits, and specialized technical assistance. “We are hosting smaller sessions”, Jolicoeur explained, “for example, our M&E specialist will meet with NCT reps next week to discuss how USAID organizes its development assistance to track it. We are also sharing with the Ministry of Finance mechanisms (through which) the USG provides foreign assistance.” Similarly, during a recent visit to USAID/Indonesia, a team from the Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning facilitated a session with the NCT on collaborating, learning and adapting processes for the SSTC. 

Going forward, the South-South Triangular Cooperation project will grow beyond cooperation through workshops as the government expands its programming into project implementation focused on Gender-Based Violence in Papua New Guinea and Disaster Risk Reduction with the Islamic Development Bank, USAID, and Government of Senegal. 

As the SSTC project advances over time, USAID, the development community and the GOI itself will pay close attention to the models and approaches the project is building. How does an SSTC project contribute to the relationship between partners? To what degree does it help build capacity? Given the project team’s plan for assessing and tracking these changes and lessons through their CLA Action Plan, they should have a lot more to tell us in future.