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Community Contribution

From Good to Great: USAID/Azerbaijan's Enabling Environment (R)evolution

David Ratliff

How do you go from good to great in a non-permissive environment when your budget has been zeroed and staff morale has tanked?  In the case of USAID/Azerbaijan, the key was energizing Mission staff with a Collaborative Learning approach.

Years of political uncertainty and harassment brought the Mission to the point that the continued viability of the Azerbaijan program was in serious doubt.  USAID partners were routinely threatened and in some cases had tax penalties and criminal charges levied against them.  These day-to-day realities eventually took their toll on the staff.

Something had to be done.

Improving the work environment and involving staff more closely in program direction helped to address the anxiety over the future of the Mission.  The result was a sustainable, healthy workplace where staff could effectively make a  development impact.  Collaborative learning helped improve morale and remind staff of their reasons for joining the development community in the first place.  The CLA approach brought the Mission together as a unit to fight and win a victory in our budget battle, showing that CLA can help achieve results even in a politically sensitive environment.

Note: This year's case competition entry form included a new question about whether or not the highlighted CLA approach(es) contribute to a country’s Journey to Self-Reliance.The response to this question was not scored as part of the judging process.