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Community Contribution

Special Announcement: New Multi-donor Partnership on Organizational Learning for Development

Jun 27, 2018
Piers Bocock, Clive Martlew

On Friday June 15 at the National Press Club, Darren Welch, Director of Strategy at the UK’s Department of International Development (DFID) and Susan Fine, USAID’s Assistant to the Administrator for Policy, Planning and Learning, announced the launch of a new multi-donor partnership on organizational learning for improved development impact.

The announcement was a part of USAID’s Moving the Needle event, which convened decision makers, thought leaders, donors and implementers around how to leverage systematic, intentional and resourced collaborating, learning and adapting to support the journey to self-reliance.

Following the announcement, a panel discussion, facilitated by Stacey Young, USAID’s Collaborating, Learning and Adapting Team Lead, featured high-level representatives from the founding members of this new partnership: USAID, DFID, The World Bank, the InterAmerican Development Bank, and UNICEF. Click here to watch the webcast of the panel.

As members determine next steps for the Learning Partnership, here are responses to some of the most frequently asked questions, and information about who to contact to get involved:

What is the purpose of this donor partnership, and how does it differ from other donor collaborations?

The Multi-Donor Partnership on Learning for Development Impact (the Learning Partnership) is envisioned as a global Community of Practice consisting of high-level decision-makers representing development funding organizations who see the value of intentional, systematic and resourced organizational learning efforts.  The partnership will focus on sharing experience, tools, approaches and challenges related to the connection between intentional organizational learning efforts and improved development results. It is designed to enable its members to learn more about how development funders (and their partners) apply evidence, share knowledge and experience, and apply systematic learning processes in order to increase aid impact and improve organizational efficiency and effectiveness.  The members seek to understand how organizations have used learning to address challenges in international development, how they embed a culture of learning in their own organizations and support each other in the integration of those processes.

What do you hope to achieve?

Through the Partnership, we hope to help member organizations identify effective Organizational Learning approaches to common development challenges, leveraging promising approaches from each other and sharing back about progress. Compiling and sharing challenges, resources, tools, and learning in an openly-accessible virtual platform will in itself be a service to the development sector. Through more intentional knowledge sharing about Organizational Learning  we also hope to lay the groundwork for more on-the-ground collaboration where donors are working in the same countries, regions and/or technical sectors. Similarly, we hope to have a more coordinated approach to learning from our partners about what works and what doesn’t. Improved sharing of data, knowledge, contextual monitoring and approaches will—we believe—lead to more efficient and coordinated development delivery, and ultimately improved capacity of our partner countries and those supporting them.  

Where did the idea come from?

In October and November 2017, DFID used its convening power to facilitate two multi-stakeholder workshops designed to highlight a variety of knowledge management and organizational learning initiatives being led by donors, implementing partners, and other stakeholders.  As a result, it became clear that many different organizations—donor agencies and partners/implementers/suppliers—are investing in strengthening organizational learning, knowledge management, organizational development and adaptive management as routes to more effective development assistance. No one agency or organization has fully integrated a comprehensive learning approach but some are attempting to do this. Many have expertise and tools in specific aspects of organizational learning that they are willing to share with their peers. Further, every participant organization recognized the immense value of coming together to share what is working and where they are struggling, to engage in “real talk,” and to serve a more unified effort to improve understanding of what works in development.  And—perhaps the tipping point for this group—we heard clearly that if the development donors don’t prioritize organizational learning then we cannot ever expect their partners to do it either.

Who are the current members?

The founding members include USAID and DFID (initial co-chairs), the World Bank, the InterAmerican Development Bank, and UNICEF.  Sida (Sweden) and GIZ (Germany) have also been involved in the early conversations. Membership of the Partnership is by invitation, but there is no intention to be exclusive. The main requirement for membership is a commitment to engaging with, and contributing to, the collective body of promising organizational learning practices. Development funders interested in learning more about the Partnership should contact the individuals identified at the end of this blog.

Are there Terms of Reference for the Partnership and will there be chance for Implementing Partners to weigh in?

The founding members, along with Sida and GIZ, are in the process of drafting clear and bounded Terms of Reference (TORs) to ensure that this initiative has a clear purpose, outputs and agreed-upon outcomes. The initial term of the group will be no more than 2 years, at which point the Partnership will assess its value and purpose. When the initial draft is complete (by September 2018), we will open up a comment period to secure input from a variety of stakeholders.  

Who is funding the Partnership?  

Currently there is no specific additional funding set aside to fund the Partnership.  It is expected that members will cover the costs of the time (and travel when necessary) to participate in calls and meetings, though we recognize that there may be additional costs for which we might need to collectively seek funding.  

What are your next steps?

Next steps for the Partnership include:

  • Finalize Draft Terms of Reference, along with a process for sharing them with various stakeholders.
  • Discuss and establish dates and a location for a September 2018 in-person meeting
  • Prior to the September meeting, identify and begin discussing key organizational and operational principles for consideration at the September gathering.
  • Identify priority focal issues for our collaborative work.

For more information, contact:

While the initial partners work on the Terms of Reference, they welcome your questions, suggestions, or thoughts in the comments section below.