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Community Contribution

Cost-Savvy Learning and Adapting Maximizes Impact in Rural Paraguay

Jerry Marcus
Finalist RibbonMidway through a five-year, $10 million cooperative agreement to increase the incomes of small producers, and with mounting concerns about project performance, USAID/Paraguay conducted an external assessment to identify opportunities for improvement. Given our very limited resources, innovation is always key. Knowing that international implementing partners (IPs) were not an option, we sought the help of a local subject area expert. Using only $10,000—only 0.1% of the project’s total estimated cost—we were able to successfully identify challenges and corrective actions.
At first, our local partner was weary of the assessment, and acceptance did not come easy. The Mission’s leadership and technical teams played a key role in creating a trusting environment, prone to frank discussions. Thus, after many months of collaborative work, we were able to make necessary adjustments in line with the theory of change, but with a more focused and efficient implementation method.
Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) for learning and adaptive management are the most important CLA components reflected throughout this process. Other elements include pause and reflect, theories of change, and openness. An important enabler of this learning and adapting process was the open and collaborative relationship between USAID and its local IP. 
Continuously stressing the importance of learning automatically leads to an adaptive mindset, which, if combined with a strong commitment from Mission leadership, results in championing the use of CLA within all implementing mechanisms.

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