Four Tips for a Winning CLA Case Competition Submission

May 14, 2018 by Amy Leo Comments (0)

These four tips address the most common issues we see in Collaborating, Learning and Adapting (CLA) Case Competition submissions. So, in the final weeks before the deadline (Thursday, May 31!), take advantage of these tips to help your case stand out.

1. Call It What It Is

Collaborating, learning, and adapting is just one of the many terms used to describe adaptive approaches to development, and we do not penalize submissions that describe CLA approaches without calling them CLA. However, there are some important differences between CLA and market systems approaches, doing development differently, and thinking and working politically, just to name a few. If you’re describing a specific, named system or approach that relates to CLA, be transparent about that and explicitly point out the interconnections between CLA and that approach. Don’t simply equate it with CLA without explanation.

Example: Catholic Relief Services' 2017 Winning Case Making Connections, Measuring Results: CLA in a Food Security Program in Zambia clearly describes the connections between CLA and an Evaluative Thinking (ET) approach they took in their activity, outlining how the skills and mindset encouraged by ET also strengthened CLA, and particularly the ability to adapt.

2. Focus on the CLA Aspects of your Case

Descriptions of technical work should only set the stage for your case, not take it over. In your responses, be sure to use the majority of the space in your submission form to describe theCLA approach itself. Don’t get into the weeds describing aspects of your project that don’t relate to your CLA approach.

Pro Tip: If you’re writing about the implementation of a new tool, be sure to focus on how the tool is used for collaborating, learning and/or adapting not the details of the implementation itself. Winning cases describe comprehensive, ongoing CLA.

Example: See The Manoff Group’s response to Question 4 in their 2017 Winning Case Stop, Reflect, Improve: Using CLA to Engage Men to Improve Women and Children's Health. They describe when and how they knew they needed to adapt their project, as well as all of the pivot points and decisions that contributed to its new direction. Any details about their project only serve to provide context for their CLA approach.

3. Connect the Dots

Question 2 of the 2018 Case Study Submission Form asks the submitter to describe the organizational or development challenge that prompted them to collaborate, learn and adapt. Strong cases clearly connect this challenge with their CLA approach, and then, in Questions 5 and 6, connect their CLA approach with outcomes. Be sure that this story arc comes through in your case.

Pro Tip: Winning cases describe comprehensive, ongoing CLA.  If you’re writing about a conference or other one-off event, be sure to strengthen your case by explaining how the event fostered CLA in a sustained and ongoing way.

Example: CARE’s 2017 Winning Case Practice What You Preach: A Tool for Staff Transformation clearly communicates the challenge at hand, what the team did to address it, and the results.

4. Provide Enough Detail

Winning cases will be featured as examples for others to follow, so step back and determine whether your submission provides enough detail for a reader to replicate your approach. Too much detail, however, may make your case less relatable for others. The guiding questions under question 4 are meant to help you determine what level of detail is needed--if you address each of them in the space provided, you’re likely on target.

Example: USAID/Jordan’s 2017 Winning Case No One Can Know Everything: Collaborating for Better Evaluation Recommendations describes the decision-making process surrounding their CLA approach and states who was involved in each step. The submitter also utilized all of the allotted space to include this level of detail. Go ahead and fill the page!