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Community Contribution

Ma Mya - The Power of a Visual Archetype for Human-Centered CLA

Richard Harrison

Shae Thot is a $70 million USAID-supported integrated community development project working in over 2,800 villages across Central Myanmar and Kayah State. It is a complex project with four large intervention components implemented by a range of partners. In line with significant changes in the implementation context and based on learning from implementation, Shae Thot's approach has evolved over time. At the core of this evolution process was the understanding and conceptualization of integration. To effectively facilitate integration among all stakeholders we applied the collaborating, learning and adapting (CLA) framework. In our experience, for CLA to be successful it needs to be complemented by a communications strategy that helps mobilize all stakeholders and enables them to unite around a common vision they relate to and get passionate about. To this end we developed the archetype Ma Mya, a pregnant woman who serves as our fictive core beneficiary representing the varied needs and vulnerabilities of Shae Thot’s beneficiaries and the interventions designed to address these. The simple visualization of Ma Mya created a focused, easy-to-understand and strong vision that all stakeholders could rally around. She contributed particularly to the CLA subcomponents of theory of change, internal and external collaboration, and continuous learning & improvement. In addition and streamlined through these subcomponents, Ma Mya established CLA as a human-centered approach tailored towards maximizing development outcomes for targeted populations. Shae Thot has reached over 2.3 million people. The crucial impact that CLA had on Shae Thot lies in the integrated delivery of services that strengthened and deepened the impact of the project on its beneficiaries. Preliminary results of a study currently underway to systematically investigate the effects of integrated development show improved outcomes both within the programmatic areas discussed above and beyond.