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2022 CLA Case Competition

Important Dates

Case Competition Opens
May 23, 2022
Case Competition Closes
When 80 submissions have been received or June 6, 2022 at 5 p.m. EDT

Opening Soon!

The Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning (PPL) is delighted to announce that this year's Collaborating, Learning and Adapting Case Competition will be opening on Monday, May 23, 2022. The competition will close after the first 80 submissions are received or on Monday, June 6 at 5:00pm EDT - whichever comes first. Participation is open to all types of individuals and organizations working with USAID. The CLA Case Competition captures real-world examples from USAID staff and partners of strategic collaboration, continuous learning, and adaptive management in action.

To learn more about the case submission process and get tips on writing a good case, review the presentation slides and listen to the recording of the CLA Case Competition Submission Webinar which was hosted on Thursday, April 21.

These cases are important to informing USAID's and partners' ongoing work in advancing how CLA approaches can be applied for organizational learning and improved development results.

  • Are you fostering locally led development through strategic collaboration with local partners?
     
  • Does your team pause and reflect on your activities?
     
  • Are you creating a learning culture within your organization, perhaps by fostering diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA)?
     
  • Have you adapted activity implementation based on evaluation findings for performance monitoring information?

This is not a call for traditional success stories; we want to hear what’s working well, what you’re struggling with, and what you’ve learned along the way. It can be about something big, or about one small practice that made an important difference to your work. Ultimately, the Case Competition helps us learn about what works and what does not when implementing CLA.

Your case submission will showcase your team’s innovation and expertise, helping us all move the needle on strategic collaboration, continuous learning, and adaptive management. All eligible cases will be featured on USAID Learning Lab and may be shared via communications channels such as the Learning Matters newsletter and on Twitter. Over the past five years, this friendly competition has grown the CLA evidence base on Learning Lab to nearly 400 cases. 

>>> Browse CLA Competition Cases

CLA and Competition Details

What is Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting (CLA)?

In 2012, USAID’s Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning (PPL) introduced the concept of collaborating, learning, and adapting at USAID as a way to operationalize adaptive management throughout USAID’s Program Cycle. Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting (CLA)—USAID’s approach to organizational learning and adaptive management—is intended to help USAID and its partners address common challenges that pervade international development assistance, including when:

  • Coordination among donors and implementers is lacking, resulting in missed opportunities for greater impact
  • Development is donor-driven, rather than country-led or community-owned
  • Data and evidence that could inform programming are not utilized
  • Outdated practices are still used despite evidence of their ineffectiveness
  • Programming is not relevant to the local context
  • Donors and implementing partners stick to existing plans and implementation approaches even as the context changes

As development practitioners, USAID staff and implementing partners do their best to avoid these common pitfalls. However, significant demands on time, limited resources, and a need to show immediate results often means that collaborating, learning, and adapting effectively to overcome these challenges remains elusive.

In the simplest terms, integrating collaborating, learning, and adapting throughout the Program Cycle can help development practitioners address the above challenges by thinking through:

  • Collaborating: Are we collaborating with the right partners at the right time to promote synergy over stovepiping?
  • Learning: Are we asking the most important questions and finding answers that are relevant to decision making?
  • Adapting: Are we using the information that we gather through collaboration and learning activities to make better decisions and make adjustments as necessary?
  • Enabling Conditions: Are we working in an organizational environment that supports our collaborating, learning, and adapting efforts?

The CLA Framework

While collaborating, learning, and adapting are not new to USAID or international development in general, they often do not happen regularly or systematically and are not intentionally resourced. To address this, USAID's Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting (CLA) Framework helps USAID missions and implementing partners think more deliberately about how to plan for and implement CLA approaches that fit their context and assist them in achieving their development objectives.

CLA Framework supports implementation of USAID’s Program Cycle.
Graphic: CLA Framework supports implementation of USAID's Program Cycle.

The CLA Framework identifies components and subcomponents to help USAID staff and partners think more deliberately about what approach to CLA might be best tailored to an organizational or programming context. The framework recognizes the diversity of what CLA can look like in various organizations and projects while also giving CLA structure, clarity, and coherence across two key dimensions:

  • CLA in the Program Cycle (portion shaded in red on the left-hand side of the CLA Framework above): how CLA is incorporated throughout Program Cycle processes, including strategy, project, and activity design and implementation; and
  • Enabling Conditions (portion shaded in dark blue on the right-hand side of the CLA framework above): how an organization’s culture, business processes, and resource allocation support CLA integration.

Organizations need both integrated CLA practices appropriate for their context and conducive enabling conditions to become stronger learning organizations capable of managing adaptively. The framework stresses the holistic and integrated nature of the various components of CLA to reinforce the principle that CLA is not a separate workstream—it should be integrated into existing processes to strengthen the discipline of development and improve aid effectiveness.

View the CLA Framework two-pager to learn more about what each of the subcomponents mean.

Want to learn more about CLA? Check out these resources in the CLA Toolkit.

The 2022 CLA Case Competition will open on May 23 and begin accepting submissions for this year's competition.

What are the important dates?

  • Case Competition opens: Monday, May 23, 2022
  • Case Competition closes: when the first 80 submissions are reached, or on Monday, June 6, 2022 - whichever comes first

Who may enter?
The Case Competition is open to all USAID staff and partners from all types of organizations (charitable organizations, private companies, or public entities) working with USAID around the world. Note: The specific activity doesn't necessarily have to be funded by USAID; however, USAID must somehow be connected to the work.

What are the case submission requirements?

To enter the Case Competition, you are required to submit: (1) the 2022 Case Submission form, (2) the Basic Data webform, and (3) an original photo related to your case submission. For additional information, please refer to the Submit Your Case page. (Note: The Submit Your Case page - with both the Case Submission form and the Basic Data webform - will become available on May 23rd when the competition opens.)

Cases must:

  • Use a collaborating, learning, and adapting approach.
  • Be associated with USAID in some way. The specific activity doesn't necessarily have to be funded by USAID; however, USAID must somehow be connected to the work, such as through collaboration or a partnership, or through an implementing partner improving their own internal CLA-related work, which by extension impacts the work they do with USAID.
  • Be submitted in English.
  • Be submitted before the Case Competition closes either: Monday, June 6, 2022 at 5:00pm EDT or upon receipt of 80 submissions. (Note: the Case Competition will close before June 6 if we receive 80 submissions before the deadline.)

How will my case be judged?
A panel of judges from USAID will review entries.

We’re looking for cases that:

  • Are intentional, systematic and resourced - CLA doesn’t just happen, it needs to be planned and budgeted. Be sure to write about the decision-making processes behind your CLA approach.
  • Are holistic, covering multiple subcomponents in the CLA framework - The strongest CLA cases involve the CLA in the Program Cycle components on the left side of the CLA framework (Collaborating, Learning and Adapting) and the enabling conditions on the right side (Culture, Processes, and Resources).
  • Have an ongoing effect on your organization and its work - If you choose to write about a conference or one-off event, strengthen your case by explaining how the learning and relationship-building continued after your event.
  • Could potentially be adopted by others - Describe your CLA approach in such a way that someone with a similar development or organizational challenge may replicate it.
  • Have clarity of expression and storytelling - this includes good, written English; punctuation; and grammar.
  • Clearly track to CLA components and subcomponents - reference the subcomponents of the CLA Framework in your narrative.

For examples of how others have used a CLA approach, browse our collection of CLA Case Competition submissions.

How will winning cases be recognized?
All eligible cases will be published on USAID Learning Lab and may be featured in newsletters, email blasts, and other social media.

Answers to Common Questions

General Questions

What is the purpose of the CLA Case Competition?

The CLA Case Competition captures real-life examples of USAID staff and partners using a CLA approach. The Case Competition helps us learn about what works and what does not when implementing CLA. Cases will help inform our adaptive approaches to COVID-19, climate change, addressing equity issues, and other contextual challenges. The past five years of case submissions have been important to informing USAID's and partners' ongoing work in advancing how CLA approaches can be applied for organizational learning and improved development results.

Can I submit a case about an activity that is just getting started?

Yes, we welcome examples of newer CLA activities or approaches that are just beginning. Documenting your work for this competition can enable you to be more systematic, intentional, and resourced about CLA in the future. It can also allow you to track your progress as you implement your programming.  

Do cases have to represent only USAID-funded work?

The specific activity doesn't necessarily have to be funded by USAID; however, USAID must somehow be connected to the work, such as through collaboration or a partnership, or through an implementing partner improving their own internal CLA-related work, which by extension impacts the work they do with USAID. If you have a case in which USAID is not somehow connected to the work, we encourage you to contribute it as a blog post or resource on Learning Lab!

Can cases be submitted in languages other than English?

Unfortunately, we are not able to process and display cases in any language other than English.

Can I submit more than one case?

There is a limit of one case per activity. There is no limit on how many cases an organization may submit. If an organization is submitting multiple cases (each from a different activity), then please complete a separate entry form for each case. Please note that the Basic Data webform that is filled out and submitted as part of the complete submission is a Google survey, and only one submission per email address can be accepted.

Can I edit my entry once it has been submitted?

Unfortunately, we are unable to accept an updated entry or additional materials related to it after you have already submitted your entry. This is because the 2022 Case Competition is limited to the first 80 submissions we receive.

How does the 80-submission cap affect the Case Competition?

For the 2022 Case Competition, due to constrained resources, the Competition will be limited to the first 80 submissions. If 80 submissions are received before Monday, June 6 at 5:00pm EDT, the Competition will close. So be sure to get your submission in as soon as possible after it opens on May 23. (Please note: incomplete cases will not be considered and will be sent back to submitters.)

Was the CLA Case Competition held in 2020?

No, the Case Competition was not held in 2020. It was held in 2021.

Who is managing the CLA Case Competition?

The CLA Case Competition is managed by USAID's CLA Team in the Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning (PPL) and by the Program Cycle Mechanism (PCM), a PPL mechanism implemented by Environmental Incentives and Bixal.

Submission Form Questions

Are the ADS 201 definitions linked in the PDF entry form?

They are not, but here’s the link to the ADS definitions.

Are there a specific number of pages, font type and size required?

Please do not change the presets, which include font type, size, and character limits, in the Adobe Fillable PDF form.

When we talk about culture in the USAID CLA Framework, what do we mean? Is it organizational culture?

Yes, we mean organizational culture, not country culture. See page two of this document to learn more about what we mean by culture in the CLA Framework.

Eligibility/Submission Limits

Can we submit a case when we helped others use CLA approaches, vs. doing it ourselves?

Yes you may.

Are there limitations on when the case took place? (e.g., is a case from several years ago permissible?)

There are no time limits, as long as the case hasn’t already been submitted in previous CLA Case Competitions.

My activity was not fully funded by USAID, it is only about 20% funded by USAID. Do you have any requirements on the minimum percentage of the USAID portion of activity funding to be eligible for this case competition? Also, can we submit entries from U.S. Government activities aside from USAID (for example, U.S. Department of State)?

The specific activity doesn't necessarily have to be funded by USAID; however, USAID must somehow be connected to the work, such as through collaboration or a partnership, or through an implementing partner improving their own internal CLA-related work, which by extension impacts the work they do with USAID.

Is there a limit on how many cases one organization can submit (if the organization manages multiple programs)? Is it possible to submit more than one case from one activity?

There is a limit of one case per activity. There is no limit on how many cases an organization may submit. If an organization is submitting multiple cases (each from a different activity), then please complete a separate entry form for each case. Please note that the Basic Data webform that is filled out and submitted as part of the complete submission is a Google survey, and only one submission per email address can be accepted.

Acceptable Cases

Will a case that involves an approach to learning from across multiple countries be considered?

Yes! Check out this former winner.

Can we only focus on one CLA sub-component?

Because all of the CLA sub-components are so interrelated, we think it would be hard to write a case featuring only one. And, we’re looking for holistic cases that, ideally, draw on both sides of the CLA Framework.

What if I have more than one example of (multi-faceted) CLA? Can I submit multiple cases or should I put it all into one case?

It’s really up to you. If you can pull multiple approaches into one case while telling a cohesive story, that can make a very strong case. However, we also want you to be able to describe your CLA approach step-by-step, so if you won’t have enough space to do that well for such a multi-faceted approach, you might consider submitting multiple cases. However, the limit is one case for each activity.

How much should my case be data-driven? Do we need to be more fact-based?

Please include as much data about the outcomes of your CLA approach as you can. However, we recognize that it can be difficult to measure the outcomes of CLA. All types of data and evidence are welcome, and the very nature of the Case Competition is qualitative.

Is the CLA Maturity Tool the preferred tool to use or can we submit a case with our own approach?

We welcome cases on any kind of CLA approach.

Can the case consist of the approach/methodology we use in our activities?

Yes, as long as it also reflects a CLA approach and clearly articulates how your approach or methodology relates to CLA.

Can a case be based on the use of tools such as GIS in improving learning?

Yes, as long as the submission clearly articulates how you used the tool to support an intentional, systematic, and resourced CLA approach to address an operational or development challenge.

Inspiration from Winning Cases

2021 CLA Case Competition Winners and Finalists!

The 2021 CLA Case Competition submission period lasted from April 5 — May 1 upon receipt of the maximum number of 80 qualifying case submissions. A team of judges from USAID read all 80 entries and selected finalists to be reviewed by a second panel of judges. These 80 cases represent 71 countries across many regions and sectors; nearly half of the cases were submitted as a collaborative effort between USAID Missions and partners. Many of the cases highlight the critical importance of the CLA approach and the determination of development workers in the face of COVID-19’s unprecedented challenges.

After much deliberation, 20 finalists were identified out of the 80 cases, and of those, seven winners. We are delighted to announce the top cases! See the finalists and winners in alphabetical order below.

Winners

Adapting Child Nutrition Screening During the COVID-19 Lock Down in Uganda | By Andrea Procopio, IMPAQ International

Community-Led Development (CLD) Harnesses the CLA Approach: The Case of Collaborative Research from 35 MERL Practitioners from 23 Organizations | By Gunjan Veda and Holta Trandafili, The Movement for Community-Led Development

From Challenge to Opportunity: CLA Response to IUU Fishing in the Philippines | By R. Geronimo, W. Penalosa, A. Uychiaoco, and R. Guieb, USAID Fish Right Program

Learning & Innovating in Complex Situations: Maternal and Newborn Health in Indonesia | By Chris Thompson, USAID/Indonesia and Social Impact

Stronger Local Partners and Systems through Collaborative and Adaptive Mindsets | By Laura Alvarez, USAID/Paraguay

Using CLA to Revisit Past Failures and Adapt Future Approaches for Greater Impact | By Saeqah Kabir, Iqbal Azad, Ayatullah Mamun, and Rubayat Ahsan, World Vision Bangladesh

Water Loss Reduction in Jordan | By Management Engineering Services Contractor, Engicon/CACL/AECOM

Finalists

Actionable Learning: Adapting a Grants Process to Support Effective Programming | By A. Kottegoda, S. Ariyarathna, and T. Gartner, Global Communities

Adaptive Collaboration with Stakeholders in the Time of COVID-19 in Senegal | By Sarah Miller Frazer, RTI International

Advance Program: Using CLA to Support Students to Complete Tertiary Education | By Fernanda Soares, Tanya Smith-Sreen, and Alejandra De Freitas, FHI 360

Breathing Coaches and other COVID Surge Responses in Eswatini Save Lives | By Echo VanderWal, The Luke Commission Eswatini

CLA in USAID/West Africa with Virtual Site Monitoring | By Lea Claye, USAID/West Africa

CLA Strengthens Efforts to Improve Language and Learning for Children with Disabilities | By Shelly Malecki and Brittany Anderson, All Children Reading Grand Challenge

Contactless Selection & Registration in Peru for Populations on the Move | By Qundeel Khattak and Alexandra Guzman, Save the Children

Improved Business Processes through Adapting and Learning | By West Africa Trade & Investment Hub MEL Team, Creative Associates International

Incorporating CLA in the Delivery of PSE Technical Assistance | By Glen Burnett and Tahira Siddiqui, USAID PEPSE Project and Resonance Global

Made in Vietnam: From Bureaucratic Standstill to Diplomatic Breakthrough | By Brownell, Fentross, Gelband, Le, Le, Salib, and Trippe, USAID/Vietnam and Social Impact

Pause & Reflect to Strengthen Kenyan Local Partner Collaboration | By Ashley Holst, Global Communities

Rapid Response Campaign: Helping Cambodian SMEs Stay Safe Online During COVID-19 | By Kate Heuisler, DAI Global, LLC

Regional Integration to Create Safer Communities | By Laura Calderon, USAID/Colombia