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The Winners of the 2018 Collaborating, Learning and Adapting Case Competition are…

Sep 12, 2018
Amy Leo, Reena Nadler

The 2018 CLA Case Competition Winners and Finalists are...

Amy Leo is a Communications Specialist on the USAID LEARN contract and Reena Nadler is a Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning Specialist on USAID's CLA Team in the Bureau for Policy, Planning, and Learning. Amy and Reena co-manage the annual CLA Case Competition.

The fourth annual Collaborating, Learning and Adapting (CLA) Case Competition was held April 9 - May 31, 2018, and we received 127 case studies. Thank you, submitters!

The objectives of the CLA Case Competition are to:

  • Capture real-life case studies of USAID staff and implementing partners using a CLA approach for organizational learning and better development outcomes;
  • Identify enablers and barriers to CLA integration; and
  • Contribute to the evidence base for CLA.

In addition, the CLA Case Competition is an annual opportunity to check in on what’s happening with CLA integration throughout USAID’s programs. The increasing number of submissions over the past  four years (57 in 2015, 63 in 2016, 100 in 2017, 127 in 2018) indicates that CLA practices (or, at least, awareness of the competition!), is rising.

Here are some other takeaways from an analysis of this year’s cases:

In 2018, we encouraged USAID missions/operating units and implementing partners to co-submit cases. And you did! Last year, we only received 2 jointly submitted cases, and this year we received 24.

  • We continue to see a concentration of CLA integration in Africa, but we received nearly twice as many cases from Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) this year--13, up from six in 2017.  

So, without further ado, here are the winners of the 2018 CLA Case Competition:

USAID/Paraguay’s case, Enhancing Organizational Culture for Improved Collaboration and Effectiveness, was a favorite among judges. The case transparently and candidly describes how the mission, led by Foreign Service Nationals, focused on and revived its organizational culture in the midst of a particularly challenging set of circumstances (think: a proposed budget of $0, no Mission Director or Deputy, uncertainty about reorganization). A year later, the mission reports that it “has restored most of the positive, passionate, and constructive culture that contributes to the success of USAID/Paraguay’s objectives.” Congratulations to author Laura Alvarez of USAID/Paraguay!

Collaborating to Build Local Government Monitoring and Evaluation Capacity in Peru, explains how USAID’s evaluation policy and an awareness of aid effectiveness principles led USAID/Peru to incorporate monitoring and evaluation capacity building as a specific focus of their assistance. Judges appreciated how the Mission used CLA to build local capacity, supporting USAID’s goal of fostering self-reliance. As a result of USAID/Peru’s CLA approach, regional governments are increasing the resources they dedicate to M&E and officials are expanding their use of M&E in the housing and sanitation sector and sharing information with the local population via government websites. Congratulations to authors Miriam Choy and Paola Buendia of USAID/Peru!

How CLA Improved Cooperation and Livelihoods in Central American Coffee describes how the Better Coffee Harvest program, a public-private partnership that is working to improve the livelihoods of smallholder coffee farmers in Nicaragua and El Salvador, leveraged its monitoring and evaluation activities to engage stakeholders and share information, ideas, and connections. Using a CLA approach helped Better Coffee Harvest meet its key performance targets and improve coordination across the larger coffee industry. Congratulations to authors Kate Scaife Diaz and Nick Rosen of TechnoServe!

Seeing in Systems, Working in Networks: CLA for Adaptive Peacebuilding in Myanmar describes a CLA approach in a highly conflict-affected region of northern Myanmar. Adapt Peacebuilding used CLA to help local communities sustainably drive their own peacebuilding and development outcomes with minimal international support in the midst of unpredictable and changing local dynamics. Using System Action Research (a methodology developed specifically for locally led change in complex environments), a consortium of local organizations designed and implemented activities that directly benefited more than 17,000 people and achieved several notable firsts. Congratulations to author Stephen Gray of Adapt Peacebuilding!

The Scoop on Poop: How Open Defecation Free Data Led to Activity Program Pivots in Ethiopia’s Lowland definitely wins the award for best title! This case  describes how USAID/Ethiopia and AECOM adapted Community-Led Total Sanitation and Hygiene (CLTSH) interventions developed for Ethiopia’s densely populated highland areas to the harsh, remote environment of the Ethiopian lowlands. This work involved gathering information about the new operating environment, engaging with local leaders, and implementing CLTSH activities accordingly. The Scoop on Poop is a helpful model for adapting effective approaches to new contexts. Congratulations to author Nikita Salgaonkar of USAID/Ethiopia and AECOM!

Collective Action, Collective Impact through Strategic Partnerships in Northern Kenya captures how USAID/Kenya and East Africa’s Partnership for Resilience and Economic Growth platform used work plans as an adaptive management and flexible programming tool. This was particularly beneficial during the 2017 drought and election shocks and stressors in Kenya. Implementing partners that built in flexibility into their work plans were able to have contingency plans and support county efforts to respond during the drought while mitigating for the delays in implementation due to the prolonged election process. Congratulations to authors Dorine Genga and Jennifer Maurer of USAID/Kenya and East Africa!

Improving Evaluation Use in Senegal through Recommendations Workshops explains how USAID/Senegal used a collaborative process to learn from a performance evaluation of one of their government-to-government agreements, and adapt accordingly. Judges were especially impressed by the Mission’s clear, step-by-step description of the process, which included an initial analysis the evaluation findings, preparing stakeholders for a recommendations workshop, and developing an action plan of prioritized recommendations following the workshop. The action plan was then used as a foundation for the design of the next phase of the agreement. Congratulations to authors Lisa Slifer-Mbacke of Management Systems International and Elizabeth Callender of USAID/Senegal!

In mid-2017, shifts in the development and conservation context indicated a need for USAID/Mozambique to manage adaptively. Seeing the Forest for the Trees: CLA Strengthens Conservation in Mozambique describes the learning activities that the mission used to reinforce the use of theories of change in biodiversity programming, improve collaboration and information sharing, and provide a clear pathway to improve activities’ MEL practice and outcomes. One outcome of their recent learning workshop is a new Conservation Community of Practice, which will allow conservation practitioners from different regions to share information for the first time. Congratulations to Olivia Gilmore of USAID/Mozambique and Kathleen Flower of USAID/Forestry and Biodiversity/Measuring Impact, with co-authors from USAID/E3/Forestry and Biodiversity.

Road Map for Collaboration: Addressing Health & Nutrition Disparities Across Rwanda details how USAID/Rwanda fostered collaboration in a  multi-sectoral nutrition project designed to address health and nutrition disparities in Rwanda. A project management team (PMT), including staff from both technical and support offices conducted a mapping exercise to visualize and document where activities were taking place, developed terms of reference to document how offices should work together, organized meetings to discuss implementation and promote alignment, and provided input during design discussions for new activities. They also participated in the design and development of plans to integrate evaluation recommendations and organized an end-of-year event for the team and partners to evaluate progress and reorient for next year.  The mid-term, whole of project evaluation found positive results from the PMT’s coordination and collaboration model. Congratulations to authors Mary de Boer & Linda Nico of USAID/Rwanda.

Before USAID Serbia’s Business Enabling Project (BEP) started in 2011, it was much harder to run a business in Serbia. However, USAID/Serbia found that economic policy reform is an ideal environment for CLA. Construction Permitting in Serbia: From 20 Stops to One Stop Shop describes how the mission used CLA practices to streamline the country’s construction permitting process with the introduction of an e-permitting system. This resulted in Serbia jumping to 10th place in the 2018 edition of the World Bank Doing Business Report in the Getting Construction Permits category. The reforms supported by USAID and BEP have resulted in record numbers of permits issued.The growth of the construction sector due to the streamlining of the permitting process has also increased the contribution of the sector to Serbia’s GDP to 6 percent of GDP.  Congratulations to authors Jelena Popovic, Aleksandar Djureinovic & Laura Pavlovic of USAID/Serbia!

These winning cases will be featured here on USAID Learning Lab in the coming months, and ultimately become a part of CLA canon--providing inspiration and direction to USAID staff and partners interested in achieving better organizational and development outcomes. Congratulations, winners and finalists!

Choosing just ten winners from 127 submissions was challenging, especially because the cases get stronger and stronger year after year. The judges’ consolation is that we also recognize an additional 20 cases as finalists. Click here to see the finalists from this year, as well as cases from previous years.. The rest of the top 75% of cases submitted this year will also be posted to this CLA Case Study collection in the coming months.