Inspiring Organizational Learning:
What USAID is doing and
how partners can help
CORE Group Spring Conference
May 7, 2014
...
Why organizational learning?
To improve the quality of our programs and results
relevant
high-impact
sustainable
To extend...
Learning as a development tool and
outcome: “beneficiaries” = agents
Why is it so hard?
Expectations: It is hard, but people think it should be
easy (and cheap!)
Enablers: Abilities, processe...
2009/2010: New leadership…
…Old problems
What often goes wrong in development?
What often goes wrong in development?
What often goes wrong in development?
What often goes wrong in development?
Program Cycle reforms
Collaborating, Learning & Adapting
Moving CLA forward
• What to do
• How to do it
• Who’s doing it? policy
intensity
& scale
practice
CLA +/-
~26/~75
Optional

Where do partners fit in?
Where do partners fit in?
What are you already doing?
What are your biggest
challenges in this area?
How can USAID lead, s...
How can partners influence USAID?
Where do partners fit in?
CLA resources
CLA resources
CLA resources
Thank you!
Stacey Young
styoung@usaid.gov
Strategic Learning Team, PPL/LER
learning@usaid.gov
Have an example to share?
Inspiration Workshop_Stacy Young_5.7.14
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  • I want to welcome you to part 2 of the Inspiration Shop.So I thought about focusing on creativity for this session for several reasons.  First and foremost, my career has been built upon trying to figure out the most effective and efficient way to encourage behaviour change and get people to work together to solve problems. Couple this with the fact that given funding trends in health and development work you can’t escape the word innovation.--- the word is just about in every RFA and RFP you see just about. In fact a few weeks back it was announced that USAID’s latest approach to global development is funding research into new technological interventions to solve problems. Our work depends on all of us being creative. Now I know what you are probably thinking… there are people that are more creative than others. And yes, there are especially creative individuals and their potential contribution to groups should not be minimized. The creative types are able to make connections and see possibility when others don’t. 1. But I say everyone has the potential to be creative, if their creativity is nurtured.
  • Just an analogy, but a good one
  • What is USAID doing to improve organizational learning and thereby improve development results?
  • Lack of coordination and lost synergy—big fish in a small pond, duplication of effortsPoor fit with context – parachute in and bring the cookie cutter—apply the approach that worked (or didn’t) in the last countryWeak evidence base, outdated practice, reinventing the wheelAddicted to “success stories”—crowds out real learningStatic plans & implementation
  • Lack of coordination and lost synergy—big fish in a small pond, duplication of effortsPoor fit with context – parachute in and bring the cookie cutter—apply the approach that worked (or didn’t) in the last countryWeak evidence base, outdated practice, reinventing the wheelAddicted to “success stories”—crowds out real learningStatic plans & implementation
  • Lack of coordination and lost synergy—big fish in a small pond, duplication of effortsPoor fit with context – parachute in and bring the cookie cutter—apply the approach that worked (or didn’t) in the last countryWeak evidence base, outdated practice, reinventing the wheelAddicted to “success stories”—crowds out real learningStatic plans & implementation
  • Lack of coordination and lost synergy—big fish in a small pond, duplication of effortsPoor fit with context – parachute in and bring the cookie cutter—apply the approach that worked (or didn’t) in the last countryWeak evidence base, outdated practice, reinventing the wheelAddicted to “success stories”—crowds out real learningStatic plans & implementation
  • Lack of coordination and lost synergy—big fish in a small pond, duplication of effortsPoor fit with context – parachute in and bring the cookie cutter—apply the approach that worked (or didn’t) in the last countryWeak evidence base, outdated practice, reinventing the wheelAddicted to “success stories”—crowds out real learningStatic plans & implementation
  • CLA is designed to address these problems in USAID’S field programs, in the context of the program cycle.CLA methods help ensure that we and our partners coordinate our efforts, and collaborate strategically; that we learn continuously through evaluations and research, through leveraging local knowledge, and through implementation and experience; and that we adapt, as the countries we work in change, and as we learn new things.We have always collaborated, learned, adapted. But we have rarely done so in ways that are systematic/strategic, intentional and planned, and well resourced. At its core, CLA is about getting intentional and systematic about ways to combat the barriers to effectiveness we just talked about. Whether you call it CLA, a learning plan, or something else, this approach  helps to create the conditions for development success by: facilitating collaboration internally and with external stakeholders; feeding new learning, innovations, and performance information back into project management; translating new learning, as well as information about changing conditions, into iterative adjustments; and catalyzing collaborative learning and systemic analysis and problem solving among developing country citizens and institutions to foster country-led developmentThere are good learning practices being used at USAID – but they’re not typically planned for and resourced as systematically, intentionally and effectively as they could be.
  • CLA is a set of processes that move us from stovepipes to synergy; generate new learning but also get it off the shelf and into our programs; and enable us to adapt iteratively in the dynamic contexts in which we work.
  • You folks are leading the way – networks like CORE group are innovating ways to share knowledge and learn collaboratively. You know what works in this area, and you know how USAID can support partners in collaborating, learning and adapting. You also know how we sometimes get in the way.
  • As you continue to support each other, think also about how you can influence organizational learning at USAID. Tell us: what are you already doing?To coordinate and collaborateTo learn continuously and catalyze learning for othersTo adapt quickly for greater effectiveness Share your methods via Learning Lab as well as your own networks and platforms.
  • Incorporate CLA into your proposals, and refer to CLA (in the ADS, and in practice)to educate missions and USAID/W offices.Do the same in management meetings with USAID POCs.
  • Message to your colleagues – there really is room for change – lead through positive focus, not cynicism (we say this to ourselves as well). Be the thin end of the wedge.
  • Acquaint yourselves with the Program Cycle reforms and guidance
  • And the Program Cycle Learning Guide.
  • And contribute to the Learning Lab resources and “Learning in Action” stories, and participate in online discussions.
  • Please be in touch with any questions.
  • And now, I’d like to invite those of you who have experiences to share with catalyzing knowledge sharing and learning within USAID activities to share them with your peers. Successes and cautionary tales are equally informative and welcome.
  • Inspiration Workshop_Stacy Young_5.7.14

    1. 1. Inspiring Organizational Learning: What USAID is doing and how partners can help CORE Group Spring Conference May 7, 2014 Stacey Young, PhD Sr. Learning Advisor Bureau for Policy, Planning & Learning USAID
    2. 2. Why organizational learning? To improve the quality of our programs and results relevant high-impact sustainable To extend our impact by influencing others’ programs and results To localize development agendas and efforts
    3. 3. Learning as a development tool and outcome: “beneficiaries” = agents
    4. 4. Why is it so hard? Expectations: It is hard, but people think it should be easy (and cheap!) Enablers: Abilities, processes, incentives are misaligned Behaviors: Knowledge hoarding, amnesia, tunnel vision
    5. 5. 2009/2010: New leadership…
    6. 6. …Old problems
    7. 7. What often goes wrong in development?
    8. 8. What often goes wrong in development?
    9. 9. What often goes wrong in development?
    10. 10. What often goes wrong in development?
    11. 11. Program Cycle reforms
    12. 12. Collaborating, Learning & Adapting
    13. 13. Moving CLA forward • What to do • How to do it • Who’s doing it? policy intensity & scale practice
    14. 14. CLA +/- ~26/~75 Optional 
    15. 15. Where do partners fit in?
    16. 16. Where do partners fit in? What are you already doing? What are your biggest challenges in this area? How can USAID lead, support & facilitate, or get out of the way?
    17. 17. How can partners influence USAID?
    18. 18. Where do partners fit in?
    19. 19. CLA resources
    20. 20. CLA resources
    21. 21. CLA resources
    22. 22. Thank you! Stacey Young styoung@usaid.gov Strategic Learning Team, PPL/LER learning@usaid.gov
    23. 23. Have an example to share?

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