Making Connections, Measuring Results: CLA in a Food Security Program in Zambia
This case concerns the USAID-funded, Feed the Future Zambia Mawa Project (2012-2017), implemented in the Eastern Province of Zambia. The project was designed to positively impact upon agriculture and nutrition involving interventions in: farming; savings and loans; maternal, infant and young child feeding and care practices; and gender dynamics. It was clear to the project designers, USAID and the implementing team that a "blueprint" approach to changing the status quo would not be successful. Although well designed, there was an inevitable degree of uncertainty around how individuals affected would respond. Agreement was reached on adopting a more responsive (later "CLA") approach to project implementation. Drawing on newly acquired skills and techniques of evaluative thinking, and a working environment that emphasized teamwork, constructive debate and, if required, an openness to course corrections, staff reflected self-critically on the feedback they received from participants. The 2016 quantitative and qualitative annual survey findings reflected the willingness of project staff and Mawa volunteers to "walk the talk" regarding collaborating, learning, and adapting interventions in the light of emerging evidence. Enabling factors included excellent internal working relationships and between project and the USAID Mission; descriptive and inferential analysis of robust monitoring and evaluation (M&E) data; and drawing on competencies to discuss self-critically and innovate. Key barriers stemmed from a project design and structure that harked back to pre-CLA days. There is considerable interest in the potential of the CLA approach, yet the Mawa experience would suggest there remains much to learn. Adopting a CLA approach to CLA itself would likely generate significant benefits.
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