Tool(kit) Reviews! Part III: Interactive Tools

Nov 15, 2021 by Learning Lab Team Comments (0)
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Tool(kit) Reviews! Part III: Interactive Tools

In this three-part blog series, staff across USAID share their go-to resources from Learning Lab’s CLA, Monitoring, and Evaluation Toolkits. Read their tool(kit) reviews for tips on practical application, and be inspired to try out new tools with your team for better development programming!

 

Part I: Guidance Documents

Part II: Templates and Checklists

Part III: Interactive Tools

 


 

The Tom Sawyer Guide to Self-Assessment

By Jared Berenter, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) Specialist 

Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning’s Program Cycle Mechanism with USAID/El Salvador

 

Resource/Tool: CLA Maturity Tool

Featured in: CLA Toolkit

 

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As anyone who has been through Country Development Cooperation Strategy (CDCS) development can attest, it is a long, painstaking process, requiring long hours from all involved over the course of many months. We faced just such a conundrum in recent efforts to support a USAID Mission in developing its CDCS. After months of deliberation and revision, we had a complete results framework and draft CDCS. But, one step remained - an organizing framework for collaborating, learning and adapting (CLA). 

 

Yes, it was the last step, but an important one. A CLA plan would serve a purpose throughout the life of the CDCS. We needed strong participation from each of five technical offices to outline processes, build a learning agenda, and assign roles and responsibilities. Our challenge? To engage technical offices in a way that communicated the role of the CLA plan in achieving the objectives of the CDCS (and thus the value of devoting time to a CLA plan at this early stage), while avoiding the perception that we were adding significant new work and future Program Cycle obligations. In other words, how could we encourage others to help us paint the proverbial fence? What would Tom Sawyer do?

 

The CLA Maturity Tool provided a perfect tool for this purpose - a structured framework for assessing where the Mission was already engaged in CLA in the Program Cycle, and a tool that could be easily adapted to a workshop setting. Importantly, the tool builds in recognition that CLA practices are often already well integrated into the Mission’s work, albeit perhaps not in a structured or deliberate way. The Tool is easy to understand, breaking down clearly defined stages of maturity (i.e., not yet present, nascent, developing, advanced, mature/institutionalized) for each key concept on the CLA wheel (now well familiar to most Mission staff). The tool is also easy to use, providing useful and specific prompts for guiding self-assessment. This is a great ready-to-use tool, now your job is to convince your audience that the fence needs painting!



But You Don’t Have to Take My Word For It, See the Official Toolkit!

By Shawn Peabody, Organizational Learning Specialist

Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning’s Program Cycle Mechanism

 

Resource/Tool: Learning Agenda Collection

Featured in: CLA Toolkit

 

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Learning Agendas are hard. Everyone knows that having a Learning Agenda is critical for teams to organize their learning efforts, but getting a group to agree on a specific set of prioritized questions can feel overwhelming. Some people want to make each question a PhD thesis; some people want to leave them as open as a barn door in summer. Some people are just confused. 

 

The Learning Agenda resources in the CLA Toolkit on Learning Lab helped me to rally a group of Mission staff around a clear set of learning questions, nested under some high-level priorities. It was particularly helpful for me to be able to reference excellent suggestions in the toolkit as official USAID guidance, rather than just speaking from my personal experience. Moreover, the examples and additional guidance on the toolkit page were helpful to give people a sense of what the final product might look like. The included checklist on “what makes a good learning question” helped to resolve differences among team members and allowed me to easily facilitate the group to reach a consensus. 

 

In the future, I’ll always start teams off by presenting key concepts from the toolkit and then encourage them to explore the associated resources before starting the learning agenda development process in earnest. Then, I will sit in a comfy chair, pull out a printed version of the toolkit and say, “Take a Look, It’s in a Book!”

 

Time for Your Team to Grow Up!

By Tiffany Myers, Organizational Development Specialist 

Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning’s Program Cycle Mechanism with the Bureau for Africa, Office of Sustainable Development

 

Resource/Tool: CLA Maturity Tool

Featured in: CLA Toolkit

 

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Struggling to get your team to collaborate, use knowledge management tools or learn and adapt from their activities? Looking for a fabulous way to engage your team around collaborating, learning or adapting (CLA)? Check out the CLA Maturity Tool tool! It’s a great way for teams to do a little self reflection on how well they are - or are not - using best practices for CLA. It draws out rich discussion and a little bit of pressure for teams to come up with an action plan as to what they will do to grow in their level of maturity. Nothing like acknowledging your areas for improvement and ways CLA could help to motivate your team into action!

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