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Community Contribution

Walking the Talk: An Iterative Approach to Developing the Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting Maturity Matrix


USAID established Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting (CLA) as a practice area in 2009 to improve organizational effectiveness and development results. The USAID Bureau for Policy, Planning, and Learning (PPL) and the USAID LEARN contract sought to create a participatory process to help mission staff think more deliberately about how to tailor a CLA approach to fit their missions’ context and needs.

CLA Approach

  • External Collaboration: We co-created the CLA Maturity Matrix tool. Team members from PPL and LEARN shared ownership of the design process and responsibility for creating the tool. We had a collaborative partnership in which an open flow of feedback was the norm, and our organizations’ leadership gave us space to experiment.
  • Continuous Learning & Improvement: We piloted the tool with a number of stakeholders and used their feedback to iteratively improve the tool and approach.
  • Knowledge Management: We synthesized and reflected on feedback from stakeholders to improve the content of the CLA Maturity Matrix and the facilitation experience. We kept a change log to document significant adaptations to the tool and what led to those changes.

Lessons Learned

  • Using an iterative approach was critical. The tool would not have been as successful or as high-quality had we not taken that approach to its development.
  • Being flexible and adaptable made the difference. Our higher-level leadership did not expect predetermined results. This freedom to explore the full range of possibilities was incredibly valuable, and is a generally uncommon experience.


  • Based on After Action Reviews and other follow-up with missions where we have facilitated the CLA Maturity Matrix self-assessment, we know that mission staff find the tool engaging, interactive, and useful.
  • Participants have indicated that their understanding of and interest in CLA increases as a result of working through the self-assessment.

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