Understanding CLA

What is it? Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting (CLA) is a set of practices that help us improve our development effectiveness. Learning has always been part of USAID’s work, and most USAID missions and implementing partners are already practicing CLA in some way. Our aim now is to make CLA more systematic and intentional throughout the Program Cycle, and to dedicate the resources necessary t

Planning for CLA

  What is it? Now that we understand CLA, integrating CLA into our development work takes planning. By developing a plan tailored to our context, efforts to collaborate with stakeholders learn from a variety of sources and apply adaptive management practices will be systematic, intentional and resourced. As we apply the CLA Framework and pathways approach to our work, it is important to remembe

M&E for Learning

What is it? The purpose of monitoring, evaluation and learning practices is to apply knowledge gained from evidence and analysis to improve development outcomes and ensure accountability for the resources used to achieve them (ADS 201.3.5). Before we plan our activities, we need to know what we are trying to do and what we need to learn to ensure that the data we collect will help us make decisio

Learning Agenda

What is it? A learning agenda includes (1) a set of questions addressing critical knowledge gaps (2) a set of associated activities to answer them and (3) products aimed at disseminating findings and designed with usage and application in mind. A learning agenda can help you: Test and explore assumptions and hypotheses throughout implementation and stay open to the possibility that your assumptio

Engaging Stakeholders

What is it? “Achieving and sustaining any development outcome depends on the contributions of multiple and interconnected actors...Each set of interconnected actors whose collective actions produce a particular outcome is a local system.” ~ USAID Local Systems Framework Development is an inherently collaborative process and so engaging with stakeholders is essential when designing and implem

Adaptive Management

What is it? USAID’s work takes place in environments that are often unstable and in transition. Even in more stable contexts, circumstances evolve and may affect programming in unpredictable ways. For its programs to be effective, USAID must be able to adapt in response to changes and new information.  How to: Manage adaptively Knowing When to Adapt - A Decision Tree Discussion Note: Adaptive

CLA in Activity Design and Implementation

What is it? Coordinated programming is grounded in evidence and, when adjusted as necessary,  enhances the development results of an activity throughout implementation. By integrating collaborating, learning and adapting (CLA) throughout the activity design and procurement process, you help to ensure that implementing partners (IPs) have the capacity and the flexibility to reap the full benefits

Enhancing Organizational Culture for CLA

What is it? A team or organization’s culture is its set of shared norms and beliefs - both spoken and unspoken. The culture, and resulting organizational climate is established over time by leaders and team members and informed by the organizational purpose and context within which it operates. Culture is continually communicated, reinforced, and changed through various means, including team me

Resourcing CLA

What is it? Integrating CLA into how we design and implement programming in an intentional and systematic way requires adequate resources. For example, strategic collaboration requires staff time to identify and engage the right stakeholders. An investment of time is also required to build trusting relationships and partnerships that leverage individual strengths for collective benefit. Learning

Managing Knowledge

What is it? In order for staff to collaborate, learn, and adapt effectively, there needs to be a culture in place that supports openness to new learning, processes that help capture knowledge and bring evidence and institutional memory to bear in decision making, and resources to support the planning, facilitation, and execution of these activities. By creating and implementing effective processe

Learning Questions Tip Sheet

This resource is intended for use by USAID staff or implementing partners as they develop or review learning questions during monitoring, evaluation or learning (MEL) planning processes. It complements the Learning Questions checklist and is geared toward strategy-level learning. The tip sheet includes examples and Do's and Don'ts for developing learning questions.

Learning (in the) Lab: A Utilization-focused Learning Agenda Playbook [External Version]

Compiled in partnership between the U.S. Global Development Lab’s Office of Evaluation and Impact Assessment (Lab/EIA) and the USAID LEARN contract, Learning (in the) Lab: A Utilization-Focused Learning Playbook is designed to share with our colleagues the tools and resources we’ve used to design, develop, implement, and iterate upon a bureau-wide, utilization-focused learning agenda called th

How-to Note: Integrating the Journey to Self-Reliance into Mid-Course Stocktaking

This resource describes how to integrate the Journey to Self-Reliance into the CDCS Mid-Course Stocktaking process.

CLA and the Journey to Self-Reliance (J2SR) in CDCS Planning and Development

USAID’s Collaborating, Learning and Adapting (CLA) principles and approaches help staff and partners to work more effectively with local actors, country partners, and others to generate and share learning that can be used to inform strategic choices and programming decisions in a Mission’s Country Development Cooperation Strategy (CDCS). This tool serves as an interface to help users understan

How-To Note: Planning and Conducting Site Visits

This How-To Note supplements USAID's Automated Directives System (ADS) 201.3.4.10. It lists Agency requirements for programmatic site visits, identifies practical steps and effective practices for planning and conducting a site visit, and recommends follow-up actions once a site visit has taken place. This How-To Note is intended as a resource for Missions and Washington Operating Units (OUs). The

CLA Position Descriptions

Examples of position descriptions for CLA-focused staff as highlighted in the Resourcing CLA landing page of the CLA Toolkit.This position description for a Senior Learning Advisor (PSC-14) provides useful information for those that want to apply or for those developing their own organizational learning advisor position descriptions. The original PD was updated to reflect the evolving set of CLA t

Resourcing CLA Example: CLA Mechanism

Example language for a CLA Mechanism as highlighted in the Resourcing CLA landing page of the CLA Toolkit.

Knowledge Management Sustainability Tracker

What is this? This document outlines a systematic and intentional approach to managing the transfer of skills and knowledge in order to support sustainable organizational outcomes. Each section has a brief description of what should be contained in it. When should this be used? This tool is intended to be used throughout the tenure of a staff member from the beginning of their tenure to the end. E

A Guide to Hiring Adaptive Employees

If you are involved in hiring, this tool can help you increase your chances of selecting staff members skilled in adaptive management. It will help answer the questions: Which competencies should I recruit for in order to hire more adaptive employees? Which desired qualifications should I incorporate into position descriptions to attract adaptive employees? Which interview questions should I ask t

USAID's Self-Reliance Learning Agenda

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is excited to announce the publication of the Self-Reliance Learning Agenda (SRLA) questions and additional resources. Please check out the resource on this page to see the full list of questions and the latest SRLA learning products. What is self-reliance? Self-reliance is a country’s capacity to plan, finance, and implement solu

Designing CLA Services in Support Activities

Strategic collaboration, continuous learning, and adaptive management throughout the Program Cycle helps USAID missions and operating units (OUs) achieve better development outcomes. Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting (CLA) can be integrated into the procurement process, solicitation, and management of implementing mechanisms. Support activities, also known as support platforms or support mecha

Designing and Facilitating Learning-Focused Meetings

A Pause and Reflect moment can take many variations (team retreats, individual time to read and process, after-action reviews, etc.), but one of the most common missed opportunities is meetings. These include implementing partner meetings, stakeholder meetings, office meetings, all-hands meetings, portfolio reviews, mid-course stocktaking, or other recurring or one-off meetings. Using participator

How Culture Influences Adaptive Management

There is some agreement that flexible and adaptive management, throughout the programme cycle and in the financial and operational management of implementation, is essential for programme effectiveness. Yet for a wide variety of reasons, most organisations have far to go to reach this adaptive ideal. This study provides a catalyst for an open discussion of the many challenges to adaptive managemen

10 Principles of Organizational Culture

Research shows that companies that use a few specific cultural catalysts — that is to say, those that use informal emotional approaches to influencing behavior — are significantly more likely to experience change that lasts. Of the companies that reported consciously using elements of their culture in Strategy’s 2013 Global Culture & Change Management Survey, 70 percent said their firms

Knowing When to Adapt - A Decision Tree

This job aid will help you determine how best to resolve a challenge/issue in programming. It is intended for use by USAID, partners, and others working in international development.

Managing Staff Transitions Through CLA: Preserving Institutional Memory as Staff Come and Go

Most USAID Missions and USAID/Washington operating units (OUs) have a set of guidance, policies, and templates to manage the administrative, logistical, and security aspects of onboarding and offboarding staff. Less often, however, is there a system in place to manage the transfer of institutional knowledge, contextual understanding, and critical relationships that have been acquired by the depart

Pathways to Integrating CLA in Your Work

PPL/LER developed a concept for helping staff to think about intregrating CLA on an individual level, the Pathways for Integrating CLA in Your Work.  Here is a job aid outlining that guide for thinking systematically or holistically about CLA.

Learning Activities Grid

The engagement grid below outlines a variety of approaches to conducting learning activities to help answer learning questions. Often, we rely on approaches that we have used in the past without pausing to reflect on whether those approaches are the best fit given our learning questions. This grid is intended for use by USAID and implementing partner staff when developing or reviewing learning act

Learning Questions Checklist

This checklist is intended for use by USAID and implementing partner staff when developing or reviewing learning questions during monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) planning processes. It can be used to assess the appropriateness of each learning question based on utility, focus, feasibility, and inclusivity. For more on learning questions and MEL, see also the USAID CLA Toolkit section on

Learning by Thinking: Overcoming the Bias for Action through Reflection

Research on learning has primarily focused on the role of doing (experience) in fostering progress over time. Drawing on literature in cognitive psychology and neuroscience, we propose that one of the critical components of learning is reflection, or the intentional attempt to synthesize, abstract, and articulate the key lessons taught by experience. In particular, we argue that purposeful reflect

Shock Responsive Programming and Adaptive Mechanisms

This guidance is intended to inform USAID staff, especially Mission project design and management teams and OAA staff, on options for designing flexible, shock responsive programs and as well as options to respond to shocks through existing development programs that were not designed with shock responsiveness in mind. 

Resourced CLA Accelerates the Journey to Self-reliance and Resilience in the Sahel

The SAREL project is a resourced, external CLA mechanism with the mandate to facilitate and stimulate enhanced collaboration and learning exchanges among 28 different RISE partners in this large initiative to build resilience in the Sahel, focusing on Niger and Burkina Faso. The Sahel Resilience Learning (SAREL) project was tasked with helping partners collaborate, learn and adapt based on the und

Incorporating CLA in Activity Management

This document provides insight into how to incorporate Collaborating, Learning and Adapting (CLA) into activity management. As you manage your activity, you have a chance to model these practices and to encourage and incentivize them in your implementing partner (IP). By laying the foundation for an open, trusting, and learning-oriented relationship with your IP, and facilitating collaboration, le

Incorporating CLA in Solicitations

This document provides insight into how to incorporate Collaborating, Learning and Adapting (CLA) throughout solicitations. One of the most important things we can do is infuse CLA consistently and coherently throughout the entire solicitation – in a way that is tailored to the objectives and particular theory of change for a given activity and builds upon the higher Project Purpose as outlined

Incorporating CLA in the Procurement Process

This document provides insight into how to incorporate Collaborating, Learning and Adapting (CLA) into the procurement process. Considering and planning for collaborating, learning, and adapting (CLA) is critical to ensuring that future IPs can better manage risk, shocks, and uncertainty; identify new opportunities; and deliver on the objectives of the activity. This is one part of the CLA in A

Plausible Contribution Memo

In its efforts to advance understandings of how to measure the effects and effectiveness of collaborating, learning, and adapting (CLA) on development results, the CLAIM Learning Network has identified a number of learning questions around assessing CLA’s 'plausible contribution' to development outcomes. These include: What is plausible contribution? What methods can help us generate evidence of

Pivot Log Template

A pivot log is an adaptive management tool to track significant changes (or pivots) that are made in an activity or a project, documenting the date and the reasoning behind the change(s), and any additional information regarding the change. 

Facilitative Leadership - Using Facilitation to Enable Strategic Collaboration

The Africa Lead program, Feed the Future’s primary capacity building program in sub-Saharan Africa, has found how to use facilitation strategically - what they call facilitative leadership - to better enable policy reform progress around agriculture. These resources draw upon examples of their work in three countries and capture useful lessons around what enables this type of facilitation to wor

Discussion Note: Adaptive Management

This Discussion Note complements ADS 201.3.1.2 Program Cycle Principles by elaborating on Principle 2: Manage Adaptively through Continuous Learning. This Discussion Note is intended for USAID staff interested in learning about recent and promising practices in adaptive management across the Program Cycle.  USAID’s work takes place in environments that are often unstable and in transition. Even

OAPA Knowledge Management Solution: A Case of Enabling Process to Eliminate Risk

To support the Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs (OAPA) with the critical responsibility of preparing congressional responses efficiently and effectively, the IBM Business Analysis Team adapted an Agency resource to serve as a knowledge management solution. Employing key collaborating, learning, and adapting (CLA) concepts throughout the implementation process, the team combined this fram

How-To Note: CDCS Mid-Course Stocktaking

The Country Development Cooperation Strategy (CDCS) Mid-Course Stocktaking How-To Note provides guidance on planning and conducting a mid-course stocktaking. The process described in the note can also be adapted to a Regional Development Cooperation Strategy (RDCS) or other types of strategies and operational frameworks.  ADS 201 requires that findings from stocktaking be documented in an Inform

How-To Note: Strategy-Level Portfolio Review

This How-To Note supplements ADS 201.3.2.18. It presents guidelines and recommended practices in planning and implementing a mission-wide strategy-level portfolio review. These guidelines and practices can also be adapted for Washington based Operating Unit portfolio reviews as well as project- and activity-level reviews conducted by Missions. The primary audience for this guidance includes progra

How-To Note: Developing a Project Logic Model (and its Associated Theory of Change)

This How-To Note describes considerations for developing a project logic model, as well as steps for thinking through a more complete theory of change (TOC). A logic model is a graphic or visual depiction that summarizes key elements of a TOC, and it is often used as a facilitation tool during the design process. There are many types of logic models, including but not limited to logical frameworks

Discussion Note: Co-Creation (ADS 201 Additional Help)

The purpose of this Discussion Note is to share practical approaches on how to design USAID activities using co-creation methods. This Discussion Note recognizes that many Missions are experimenting with approaches to co-creation and seeks to stimulate new ideas to deepen USAID's engagement with partners and key stakeholders during the design of development programming.This note highlights that th

Combating Wildlife Trafficking - Cross-Mission Learning Agenda

USAID has a long history of support for biodiversity conservation, including programs that help park authorities and rural communities reduce poaching and consumption of wildlife, usually as part of broader investments in protected area management or community-based natural resource management. Wildlife trafficking, defined as illegal hunting, transport and commerce of wildlife and wildlife produc

Cross-Mission Learning Agenda for Conservation Enterprises

An intentional and collaborative strategy for continuous learning through all stages of the Program Cycle is essential to achieve development results. As a strategy for continuous learning, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Bureau for Economic Growth, Education, and Environment/Office of Forestry and Biodiversity (E3/FAB) is implementing a Biodiversity Cross-Missio

Landscape Analysis of Learning Agendas: USAID/Washington and Beyond

The Landscape Analysis of Learning Agendas at USAID/Washington and Beyond report details the increasing interest in learning agendas and the progress that USAID/Washington is making on using evidence to inform our work. The report surveys the number and types of efforts along with individuals’ experiences and recommendations. It makes for interesting reading for those who would like to understan

Additional Help: Staff Roles and Responsibilities for Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning

Monitoring, evaluation, and learning throughout the Program Cycle involves staff at all levels at a Mission. The following guidance describes various roles and responsibilities involved in these practices. Each Mission should detail their staff functions, based on these roles and responsibilities, in their Mission's Monitoring Mission Order and Evaluation Mission Order (these documents can onl

Establishing a Learning Agenda and Learning Agenda Template

A learning agenda includes a (1) set of questions addressing the critical knowledge gaps impeding informed design and implementation decisions and (2) plans for learning activities to help answer those questions. A basic process for a learning agenda includes three key steps:Understanding the context Developing and prioritizing learning questionsPlanning and resources learning activities

Drafting a Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting (CLA) Plan and CLA Plan Template

This document, an ADS 201 Additional Help resource, provides direction on how to develop a Collaborating, Learning and Adapting (CLA) plan for a Mission's Performance Monitoring Plan (PMP).It outlines the information to include in a CLA plan, describes the processes Missions can use to understand their current CLA practice, and discusses how Missions should update and use the plan.

How-To Note: Activity Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Plan

Each activity is required to have an Activity Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL) Plan to support management of the activity and to inform USAID and the implementing partner about whether and how an activity is making progress toward stated results. This How-To Note provides an overview of what is typically included in an Activity MEL Plan and outlines practical steps for developing, review

How-To Note: Prepare and Maintain a Performance Management Plan (PMP)

A Performance Management Plan (PMP) is a Mission-wide tool for planning and managing the process of (1) monitoring strategic progress, project performance, programmatic assumptions, and operational context; (2) evaluating performance and impact; and (3) learning and adapting from evidence. Each Mission must prepare a Mission-wide PMP within six months of CDCS approval. Missions that do not ha

What Difference Does Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting Make to Development? Key Findings from our Literature Review

LEARN and USAID/PPL are managing an area of work known as Evidence Base for Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting (EB4CLA). The purpose of this work is to answer key learning questions: Does an intentional, systematic and resourced approach to collaborating, learning and adapting contribute to development outcomes? If so, how? And under what conditions? As we began this work, we identified the nee

Glossary of Development Project Management Terms

A complete glossary of terms and definitions for all who want to learn more about project management applied in the development sector.

Procurement Executive Bulletin on Adaptable Mechanism

This bulletin from the Office of Acquisitions and Assistance provides guidance on how to allow for learning, flexibility, and adaptability in contracts.

USAID/Uganda - A Mission of Leaders - Interview and Video

In this screencast Mission Director Leslie Reed and Deputy Mission Director Mark Meassick present on USAID/Uganda's "Mission of Leaders" initiative, an effort to build individual staff capacity, strengthen teaming processes and behaviors, and transform the Mission's culture to more effectively support Program Cycle implementation and institutionalize collaborating, learning and adapting. The scree

Southern Africa Learning Plan and CLA Action Matrix

This resource is available to USAID staff only. Click on the link to view it on ProgramNet.

Introduction to Net-Mapping

Net-Map is an interview-based mapping tool that helps people understand, visualize, discuss, and improve situations in which many different actors influence outcomes. By creating Influence Network Maps, individuals and groups can clarify their own view of a situation, foster discussion, and develop a strategic approach to their networking activities. More specifically, Net-Map helps players to det

CLA Framework, Maturity Tool and Spectrum Handouts

USAID/PPL/LER and its support mechanism, LEARN, have developed a Collaborating, Learning and Adapting (CLA) Framework and Maturity Tool to help USAID missions think more deliberately about how to plan for and implement CLA approaches that fit the mission’s context and assist them in achieving their development objectives. Using a series of physical cards, the CLA Maturity Tool provides a clear p

Post-Evaluation Action Plans

This guidance and attached templates (in Microsoft Word) describe the responsibilities and steps to prepare post-evaluation action plans that respond to evaluation report findings, conclusions, and recommendations. The guidance and templates are primarily for use by USAID staff.

Submitting a USAID Evaluation to the Development Experience Clearinghouse (DEC)

This document provides detailed instructions for USAID staff on how to submit an evaluation to the DEC. Non-USAID staff members accessing the DEC’s public website are required to register for an account to submit documents.

Navigating Complexity: Adaptive Management at the Northern Karamoja Growth, Health, and Governance Program

Development actors increasingly agree that managing programs adaptively – especially complex interventions – can improve their effectiveness. A growing body of evidence supports this claim. But what does adaptive management look like in practice? And what does it require of managers and funders to make it happen?Mercy Corps commissioned Engineers Without Borders Canada to help answer these que

Closing the Loop: Effective Feedback in Humanitarian Contexts

This paper, written by Francesca Bonino, Isabella Jean and Paul Knox Clarke for ALNAP presents a guide for practitioners who are designing or implementing feedback loops into their development programs. 

Performance Management Plan Toolkit

The purpose of this Toolkit is to provide USAID staff and partners with practical resources for a critical aspect of managing for results -- developing and implementing a performance management plan (PMP). The emphasis of this Toolkit is on the how to of developing a PMP rather than a discussion of what is performance management, which is contained in the official programming policies -- the USAID

Complexity-Aware Monitoring Discussion Note (Brief)

PPL's Office of Learning, Evaluation and Research (LER) is pleased to share an updated Discussion Note: Complexity-Aware Monitoring. This paper is intended for those seeking cutting-edge solutions to monitoring complex aspects of strategies and projects.  We hope this paper will raise questions, stimulate dialogue, and – most of all -- inspire experimentation. Most of the principles provide

Communities of Practice Guidance

A community of practice (CoP) is a group of people who share a common interest and interact often to learn from each other to advance their work.  A CoP typically has three main characteristics: A focus on a topic or subject that establishes the CoP’s identity and distinguishes it from other groups Engagement of community members A repertoire of resources and outputs This brief was written to s

Tacit Knowledge Guidance

Addressing tacit knowledge is critical for effective organizational learning. Although tacit knowledge can be challenging to identify and manage, creating processes and practices that facilitate its capture and transfer can allow organizations to create efficiencies and improve their learning practice. This document provides guidance on methods for identifying, capturing, and transferring tacit kn

Peer Assists Guidance

Peer assists are face-to-face or virtual gatherings that bring colleagues together to share knowledge, best practices, or lessons learned on a particular topic. They can be an extremely useful learning activity to facilitate knowledge sharing, participatory learning, and collective problem solving. This document provides further information on the types of peer assists, assumptions and responsibi

Webinars Guidance

Webinars can help bring together a group of individuals in different locations to learn more about a specific topic. They can be used to share highlights from a recent report or book, results from an evaluation or study, opposing viewpoints on a topic of interest, different approaches around a subject, and new tools or resources. This guidance brief provides information on requirements for webinar

Collaboration Mapping

Effective collaboration is a critical aspect of USAID’s work. It ensures that the Agency establishes and leverages relationships with key stakeholders, including other U.S. government actors, donors, host government counterparts, partners, civil society, and the private sector. Collaboration is important in order to identify areas of shared interest and potential cooperation, avoid duplication o

Knowledge Management Maturity Model (M3)

This framework depicts the characteristics and key focus areas of the different levels of knowledge management maturity, from ad hoc (very low) to optimized (very high). It can help organizations determine where they fall on the scale and identify processes for achieving increased knowledge management structures.