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Oceans of Opportunity: Using CLA for Mid-Term Program Learning and Adaptation

Melinda Donnelly
The USAID Oceans and Fisheries Partnership (Oceans) is a five-year regional program funded by USAID’s Regional Development Mission for Asia (RDMA) to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, promote sustainable fisheries, and conserve marine biodiversity across Southeast Asia. In 2015, the program set out with an ambitious goal to build a single, unified electronic catch documentation and traceability (eCDT) system that would serve all ten Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries. a pioneer in facilitating regional eCDT to support data-driven fisheries management, it was clear from the outset that Oceans would benefit from using CLA approaches in its implementation. As implementation began, Oceans quickly learned that each of the participating ASEAN member countries had widely differing needs and capacities that would render a top-down, single-system approach ineffective and obsolete. These findings challenged core assumptions in Oceans’ TOC; the program needed to adapt to address regional diversity, rapidly evolving technologies and growing interest in developing national policies to support international requirements.
The USAID’s Office of Forestry and Biodiversity (FAB) and RDMA team understood how the activity’s midpoint presented a unique opportunity to pause and reflect to adaptively manage program decisions and activities during its second half. USAID and Oceans decided to hold a pause and reflect workshop, timed to inform the design of two technical mid-term assessments. The CLA process had two major areas of impact. One, a follow-on internal mid-term program review that was well designed and informed due to the pause and reflect workshop exercise, and two, ongoing changes in organizational dynamics that resulted from a dedicated, intensive period of internal collaboration.  

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