Livin' la vida DOJO: Improving organizational learning practices at scale
In 2022, USAID/Vietnam and USAID Learns launched the Learning Dojo, a holistic capacity-strengthening opportunity for USAID's local and international implementing partners (IPs), based on the IP Needs Assessment conducted in 2021. Fifty-four staff from 26 USAID activities joined the Dojo's three tracks: Leadership, Adaptive Management, and Foundations in Monitoring; 42% of the participating organizations were local, and 58% were international (85% of the participants were Vietnamese). The USAID Learns team implemented the Learning Dojo with CLA in mind at every step: CLA was integrated into all content. The team applied CLA in creating and delivering each track, and hired a learning advisor to gather real-time feedback from participants to continuously improve the tracks. Through the Dojo's cohort model, IPs were learning just as much from each other as from the facilitators.
Each IP staff participant was considered a change agent within their teams, and asked to identify where they could make improvements in their MEL and CLA practices. The track designs were highly experiential, giving participants the opportunity to learn from the sessions and then immediately apply their learning to create organizational change and improve development results. By the end of the Dojo, many participants shared stories of individual and organizational improvements: applying mindfulness practices to help reduce burnout and address mental health challenges; improving theories of change, internal data systems, and data quality; and strengthening relationships with internal and external stakeholders.
In this case, we focus on two IPs from the Dojo working on higher education in Vietnam: the Arizona State University BUILD-IT activity and the Partnership for Health Advancement in Vietnam (HAIVN) IMPACT-MED activity. In the former, integrating pause and reflect practices led to an increase in female participation rates in the activity. In the latter, an intentional process for selecting local university partners led to better choices that will affect the activity for years to come. These two examples offer evidence of how small changes in organizational behavior, spurred by an inspiring capacity-strengthening experience, can ultimately impact individual lives and programmatic decisions in positive ways.
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