Collaborating, Learning and Adapting at USAID: A podcast series from USAID Learning Lab

Collaborating, learning and adapting (CLA) is USAID’s approach to improving its organizational effectiveness to deliver better development results. It acts as a force multiplier, making the Agency’s work more coordinated and efficient and, ultimately, more effective.

This podcast series is an overview of CLA at USAID. Episode 1 introduces the concept of CLA and explores evidence demonstrating why and how CLA matters to development results. Episodes 2, 3 and 4 focus on collaborating, learning and adapting, respectively, through in-depth case studies told through interviewers with USAID staff and partners.

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How USAID is Hacking International Development from the Inside Out

Collaborating, learning, and adapting, or CLA, is an approach that recognizes the complexities of international development and empowers practitioners to use continuous learning and adaptation to strengthen their strategies and programs. Hear from four development practitioners responsible for shaping and evaluating the impact of CLA.

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Stop, Collaborate and Listen

We get a lot of requests for examples of what collaborating, learning and adapting looks like in practice. So in this episode, we’re zeroing in on the C in CLA, collaboration, with three case studies. In our first story, an ambitious Program Manager applies the principles of human centered design to workshop facilitation. Next, I’ll speak with someone who is using digital storytelling to build bridges between women in South Africa. And third, Bari Rabin shares about facilitating a collaborative process among an unlikely group of stakeholders in Guatemala. In the closing, LEARN Chief of Party Piers Bocock reflects on about what jazz can teach us about collaboration.


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How (and Why) is USAID Learning?

In fall 2016, USAID updated its operational policy to reflect its commitment to organizational learning. So how is USAID learning? And why does learning matter? Episode 3 of the USAID Learning Lab podcast zeroes in on the “L” in collaborating, learning and adapting at the project and organizational levels.

First, we look at learning at the project level. Listen as Nathan Morrow, an associate research professor at Tulane University and finalist in the 2016 CLA Case Competition, explains how a resilience project in Somalia is using data collected via mobile communication technology to inform real-time program adaptations.

And next, USAID LEARN monitoring, evaluation, research and learning specialists Laura Ahearn and Matthew Baker discuss a tool used throughout USAID for intentional and systematic learning at the organizational level: learning agendas.

In closing, USAID Learning Lab members share why learning matters to them.

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Adapting for Better Development Results

This is the final episode in our series on how USAID is collaborating, learning and adapting (CLA) with a look at the “A” in CLA: adapting. International development work is often criticized for not being locally led or context aware. By encouraging a CLA approach, USAID is creating space for staff and partners to adapt their strategies and projects in response to their operating environment and stakeholder feedback. Listen as we explore three USAID projects that have adapted and scaled up in response to lessons learned and changes in their local context.

Find out what happened when:

  • A youth employment project in Tunisia wasn’t yielding jobs
  • A gender project in Jordan wasn’t meeting the community’s expectations
  • A multi-sector resilience project in the Sahel was designed to integrate CLA practices, and project managers identified opportunities for strategic collaboration

In closing, USAID Foreign Service Officer David Ratliff explains what CLA has to do with Star Wars!

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