First CLA Case Competition Sparks Larger Conversation About Learning

Dec 1, 2015 by Heather Risley Comments (0)

In front of over 100 development practitioners from USAID and partner organizations, representatives from six initiatives and activities were recently honored for their outstanding efforts at integrating collaborating, learning, and adapting (CLA) into their work. November marked the culmination of this year’s CLA Case Competition, which resulted in prizes awarded to five case studies and one video storyboard submission for the best examples of CLA in action. “The CLA Case Competition is really amazing,” said competition winner Pranati Mohanraj of CARE. “This is providing a platform, an opportunity, for all different development actors to come together and learn from each other. This is what it's all about.” 

In seeking to build the evidence base for where and how CLA is contributing to better development outcomes, the LEARN contract, in collaboration with USAID’s Office of Learning, Evaluation and Research in the Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning, designed this competition to crowdsource examples of CLA in action from around the world. Participants, including USAID missions and operating units as well as implementing partners, had the opportunity to submit either a) case studies that reflected a specific example of a CLA approach they used or b) video storyboards that depicted their story through sketches and text descriptions of the visuals and audio. When the competition was closed at the end of August, a panel of judges, including representatives from USAID and LEARN, scored every submission based on its degree of clarity, analysis, completeness, creativity, and replicability. 

The five case study awards went to ACDI/VOCAUSAID/BangladeshILRI EthiopiaCARE Malawi, and USAID/Uganda. The award for best video storyboard went to Environmental Incentives and Foundations of Success. With support from LEARN, this storyboard will be fully produced as a video and featured on Learning Lab as part of our new CLA in Action video series. Representatives from these organizations also joined us in Washington to participate in the “Moving the Needle 2015” event on November 17. After the event, competition winner Simret Yasabu of the International Livestock and Research Institute commented, “I really appreciated that you initiated this competition, and this is a good way of encouraging people. It's recognizing what you are doing and an incentive for the winners especially.”  

CLA Case Submissions Snapshot

The response to this inaugural CLA Case Competition was impressive! Overall, we received roughly 60 submissions! Check out the snapshot below for a more detailed profile:

CLA Case Competition 2015 infographic

Click here to download the full-size version.

Cases that made the finalist round are currently posted on Learning Lab here. All qualifying submissions will be posted to the site in coming months.

Key Takeaways

The large sample of cases yielded some important insights. While each case was unique, some themes clearly surfaced.  

  1. Most cases defied classification as either C, L, or A, but instead were a mix of two or three. Collaborating, learning, and adapting, while often perceived as discrete components are (and should be) extremely integrated. This finding is congruent with the spirit of the CLA framework—each component should reinforce the others.

  2. CLA looks different in every case, but there are some common trends around how organizations create the enabling conditions to support CLA. Organizational culture and leadership were frequently mentioned in case entries as either areas of focus or lessons learned. Moreover, truly effective adaptive management requires the intentional use of processes and resources that allow for iterative design and implementation.

  3. When we begin the judging process, we found ourselves asking, “Is this CLA or just good development?” The answer: good CLA (or CLA that is systematic, intentional, and resourced) simply looks like good development. Instead of a predetermined set of activities or rules to follow, CLA is being integrated into existing processes to strengthen development efforts, which just makes good sense. 

Thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s competition! We are always looking for new examples of CLA in action. You can submit your case to us by using this case submission form and emailing it to [email protected]. Any new cases received will be entered into next year’s competition. You can also engage with us by tweeting your CLA in action examples to @USAIDLearning or submitting a blog post here