The Learning Dojo: A Space for CLA "Black Belts" at USAID
In late 2016, USAID’s Bureau for Policy, Planning & Learning (PPL) initiated the Learning Dojo, an effort to bring together five operating units at USAID around a shared learning agenda. Representatives from PPL, the Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance, the U.S. Global Development Lab, localworks, and Forestry and Biodiversity meet regularly to share learning around these key learning questions:
- What do effective collaboration, continuous learning, and adaptive management look like?
- What does effective local ownership look like?
- What difference do our respective efforts—collaborating, learning, and adapting (CLA), science, technology, innovation, and partnership (STIP), local ownership, etc.— make to development? When, under what conditions?
- How do we effectively measure the contribution of CLA, STIP, etc. to development results? What is considered evidence?
- What creates organizational change at USAID? How effective are our individual change efforts? How can we pool our collective efforts more strategically?
The Dojo is an excellent example of intra-agency collaboration around a shared learning agenda. Regular meetings allow members to pause and reflect on what they are learning and apply new, cross-institutional insights in their work. The process of creating a shared learning agenda and sharing knowledge gained from each unit’s learning activities has strengthened relationships and the flow of information within USAID. In addition, it gives Dojo members, who are often on the front lines of providing CLA technical assistance in their bureaus, an opportunity to experience CLA firsthand.