Listen to the new Podcast from USAID Learning Lab

Feb 8, 2017 by Amy Leo Comments (4)

Have you ever wondered where the concept of collaborating, learning, and adapting (CLA) came from? Curious about what it looks like to operationalize CLA in the field or how it impacts organizational effectiveness? Our pilot episode of the USAID Learning Lab podcast includes interviews with four development practitioners responsible for shaping, integrating, and evaluating the impact of CLA. Designed with a broad audience in mind, we hope you'll listen to and share this introduction to USAID's adaptive management approach.

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Share your thoughts on this pilot episode.

The CLA Framework

Resources Mentioned in this Episode:


These comments are in lieu of responding to the separate questionnaire about this podcast.

CLA, as “a better way to manage,” is hard to argue with.  Listening to the podcast, I do have some comments:

·         Mostly in the beginning, it was too “buzzwordy,” and seemed like people were reading from a script.  After the first third or so, these ceased to be problems and some of the humanity of the participants showed through.  Similarly, as useful as CLA seems, it wasn’t until towards the end that the possibility was raised that there are still issues with it; that there are things you don’t know.  Up until that point, it bordered on cheerleeding—which is not to say there aren’t things to be satisfied about, but there wasn’t much of a critical spirt

·         The best parts were the interviewees who mentioned that we need an “expanded sense of what evidence is,” “impact can be indirect,” (while not directly on CLA) just what a field officer does all day, and of course the one at the end who is “open to challenges to CLA,” understands “nuances” such as (powerfully) a previously unquestioned value like “collaboration,” if too much, can detract from creativity.  Wow!

·         But other than this one example showing a recognition of the non-linear, “Goldilocks” nature of an important value, collaboration, are you open to what you also don’t know about other important values?  As you emphasize learning, are you also asking “What are we missing, including what might be in front of our very faces, but currently we’re not attuned to it?”  Could there be something in the area of quantification, locally-led development, recruitment, and communications with U.S. citizens?  What about transformation, which your former Administrator wrote becomes difficult when everything has to be measured?  If interested in pitfalls of quantification (your term) or metrics (my field’s term), including the problems many fields have had with them and the assumptions that need questioning to make them better, see some of the currently 19 articles in my series: “The Pitfalls of Sustainable Business Metrics.”  Here are two: “How Superficial Interpretations of Sustainable Business Metrics Can Be Totally Off-Base,”; and “Is it Objective to ‘be Objective’ about Sustainable Business Metrics?,”

·         Just as you might learn from other fields, please realize that you’re ahead of others when it comes to a number of areas, including the critical ones of learning and reflection.  I hope you can make a connection to the several others fields who in their (very analogous) pursuit of quantification, are missing these entirely

·         Like an article in today’s New York Times by Allison Arieff, “Designs on the V.A,” to improve things there, which I also commented on (see, 6th comment from the top), your very worthy efforts to improve efficiencies and effectiveness of two government agencies lead to the elephant in the living room.  Will these kinds of improvements satisfy the “anti-government” philosophies of those who either just want to cut and/or don’t accept your missions (or in the V.A.’s case, just want to privatize)?  I hope so, but have no clue

·         Finally, a very small thing, but immediately after the podcast, there was still a little time left so I let it run.  There was a kind of “Movie outtake,” which was unexpected but nice, as well as a roll-in to an entirely different topic.  I’m not sure that at least the latter was your plan.

Matt Polsky

posted 3 years ago
Amy Leo wrote:

Hi Matt, Thank you very much for this feedback. We're working on a second episode right now and will take all of this into consideration. Regarding your last bullet point, yes, that portion of the podcast was intentional and meant to be a fun way to end the episode. We're going to do something like it on the next episode but make it more in line with the overall theme. I look forward to your thoughts on episode two. Thanks for listening!

Amy Leo

posted 3 years ago

Are there transcripts for these podcasts? I'd like to share with a colleague who has hearing loss.



posted 2 years ago
Amy Leo wrote:

Hi Linda, 

Yes, here are the transcripts for Episode 1 and Episode 3 of the series. I will let you know when the rest are posted.


posted 2 years ago