CLA and the Mid-Course Stocktaking Exercise for USAID/Jamaica
One of the new initiatives coming out of the Policy, Planning and Learning Bureau is a renewed focus on Collaborating, Learning and Adapting (CLA). There is an emphasis on learning throughout the program cycle, taking the positive and negative lessons, and using that knowledge to manage our activities better and get improved results.
USAID/Jamaica took a dive into the CLA space with a recent mid-course stocktaking exercise. At first, people wondered about the objective of this Program Office-driven activity. What will it achieve? Is this just another meeting that we will have to attend? But, the questions turned into compliments at the end of the exercise, with a commitment to implement action items emanating from the gathering.
For the stocktaking exercise, the Mission utilized the LEARN implementing mechanism and had two excellent facilitators. Meetings were organized with the technical offices, Mission management and stakeholders to go over the CDCS and to see if we should be doing things differently, what elements were working well, and what needed to be changed. I participated in the technical office meetings and the final discussion where all ideas were brought together and concrete actions assigned to individuals and/or offices.
The final discussions noted that stakeholders felt that the Mission was on the right path, in general, but would like to see greater collaboration among stakeholders and dissemination of information on USAID activities. The exercise also identified key analyses needed to prepare for the next CDCS - set to begin in FY 2019 - and a need to review our results framework. We recognized that it would make more sense to make some of the changes identified as necessary in the next CDCS rather than try to revise the current strategy, particularly with respect to the Results Framework.
I would encourage all Missions not to view the mid-course stocktaking exercise as "yet another requirement from Washington," but see it as an opportunity to analyze, gather feedback, and check those assumptions that were made when the CDCS was being developed. In the end, you will gain a lot from the exercise. In order to maximize the benefit from the exercise, you should:
- Engage all members of staff.
- Include a variety of stakeholders in the discussion.
- Ensure that adequate time is set aside for team discussion and brainstorming.
- Socialize the exercise in advance so that staff can block off their calendars and come prepared for rigorous discussion.
Remember, you get out what you put in! If team members are passionate and contribute actively to the process, then the findings and recommendations coming out of the exercise will be grounded and owned by the Mission.
Finally, there is the hard part - implementation of the findings. The LEARN team assisted the Mission to develop an action plan to implement the recommendations. We are in the process of implementing the recommendations and while it is difficult to find the time, it is well worth the effort as it will strengthen the learning, planning and decision-making process at the Mission. Thanks to LEARN for facilitating such a useful exercise, Mission colleagues for their continued engagement in the process, and to PPL for having the foresight to provide a much-needed mechanism for learning activities!