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Community Contribution

Made in Vietnam: From Bureaucratic Standstill to Diplomatic Breakthrough

Brownell, Fentross, Gelband, Le, Salib, Trippe, and Le

Vietnamese regulation requires all donor assistance to obtain project approval from a relevant Government of Vietnam counterpart. Despite a strong U.S.-Vietnam bilateral relationship, USAID and its implementing partners experience substantial delays in obtaining project approval, which delays critical implementation and reduces overall program impact.

To inform adaptation with evidence, USAID commissioned a study to understand where implementing partners are facing the biggest challenges in the approval process. USAID and USAID Learns built targeted collaborating, learning, and adapting (CLA) approaches into the study process to increase the likelihood of utilization and organizational change. USAID Learns held a validation event with USAID and implementing partners to collectively make sense of the study results. The feedback informed a series of practical interactive tools, including handouts and an animation video that highlighted how to better collaborate with the Government of Vietnam. The Mission then held a utilization workshop to help USAID staff incorporate recommendations throughout the Program Cycle. As a result of these conversations, the Program Office updated the Mission Order and design process, and the Office of Acquisition and Assistance (OAA) instituted a new protocol to better align awards and Government of Vietnam priorities, with five co-creation processes currently underway.

The application of CLA methods shifted the culture of how USAID engages the Government of Vietnam across its Program Cycle, moving from perfunctory to mutuality. The new Mission design process is systematically integrating stakeholder voices into designs, ensuring that the Government of Vietnam is on board. This ultimately means that USAID can undo some of the downstream effects of delayed project approval and achieve greater program impact.

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