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Community Contribution

USAID/Zimbabwe’s Big Weeks and CLA: A Blueprint for Participatory, Scenario-Based CDCS Development

Dennis P. Marotta

From fall 2015 through the spring of 2016, USAID/Zimbabwe developed its Country Development Cooperation Strategy (CDCS) for 2016–2021. This is our first full CDCS following a three-year transition strategy. We used a collaborative, scenario-based process during an intensive, four-week period to learn how to incorporate collaborating, learning, and adapting (CLA) into mission-wide practices and across every stage of the Program Cycle. We called this the “Big Weeks” approach.

CLA Approach

  • Mission Resources, Internal Collaboration, Scenario Planning: The Big Weeks were a CLA event in themselves, based on collaboration among multiple stakeholders. We integrated joint learning and adapting based on evidence from research, consultation, and the resulting CDCS results framework, narrative, and scenarios we produced during the Big Weeks.

Lessons Learned

  • Recognizing the role of leadership. This was critical for communicating key objectives, rallying participants, setting a positive yet disciplined tone, and — perhaps most importantly — creating a fun workplace where staff could enjoy the technical challenges and the people they work with.


  • The Big Weeks led to the first articulation of a CLA approach for our CDCS.
  • We are incorporating major CLA “pause and reflect” events to take place annually and correspond with our bi-annual portfolio reviews.
  • The mission, guided by a new CLA Group, will develop monitoring procedures within the expanded CLA Plan to track foundational elements of CLA.

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