USAID Learning and Knowledge Management (LEARN)

Integrating learning and adaptive management into the development community

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)

Practitioners working in international development must constantly adapt to change at all levels—from responding to unanticipated outcomes in project monitoring and evaluation data to navigating unstable political situations or natural disasters in the field. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) recognizes the importance of strategic collaboration, continuous learning, and adaptive management to address ongoing change. As a result, the agency developed the Collaborating, Learning and Adapting (CLA) Framework to guide field practitioners towards the best possible development outcomes and ultimately support countries on their development journey towards self-reliance. Through the USAID Learning and Knowledge Management (LEARN) project, RTI—in close collaboration with prime contractor Dexis Consulting Group—supports USAID’s Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning (PPL) in providing learning, knowledge management, web design, and event planning expertise to develop CLA tools and approaches and provide demand-driven technical assistance to over 60 missions worldwide and 12 operating units based in Washington, D.C.

Supporting CLA Integration

We support USAID missions around the world to integrate CLA into their Program Cycle processes and operating environments. We design and facilitate country development cooperation strategy (CDCS) mid-course stocktaking workshops, which allow mission staff to pause and reflect on their progress towards achieving CDCS development objectives and change course if necessary. We also facilitate self-assessments using the CLA Maturity Tool with mission teams to determine specific actions staff may take to be more efficient and effective in their day-to-day work and oversight of development activities.

“[The facilitation team, including LEARN and two D.C.-based USAID staff members] were instrumental in helping us achieve our goals for the [stocktaking] exercise: empowering our staff, revalidating our assumption, and learning and adapting from our work so far,” said Sheryl Stumbras, Acting Mission Director for USAID/Mozambique. “Many team members have expressed to me how much they appreciated the inclusive nature of the stocktaking and the opportunity for all to contribute to a strategic vision for our assistance. We could not have done this without the skilled and creative facilitation from the team.”

Promoting Online Knowledge Exchange and Strategic Learning

To make information accessible and encourage collaboration across the agency, we promote online knowledge exchange and strategic learning through two USAID platforms. The USAID Learning Lab is an interactive community where agency staff and practitioners around the world may access and contribute to a growing repository of CLA tools and resources. ProgramNet is USAID’s internal interactive online community for comprehensive Program Cycle support for USAID staff. In support of these two important platforms, our team regularly hosts a series of webinars and blended learning events for both internal and external USAID audiences. We also provide ongoing support for site development and enhancement, ensuring that both sites remain updated and functional and are meeting the needs of their users.

Moving the Needle

The most recent Moving the Needle (MTN) conference highlighted how USAID and its partners can use CLA to increase sustainability and local ownership to support countries as they move towards greater self-reliance. MTN is USAID’s agency-wide conference that convenes 200 USAID staff, implementing partner representatives, and other members of the broader development community to share lessons learned and best practices in organizational learning and adaptive management.

During the conference, USAID and DFID announced the launch of a new multi-donor partnership on organizational learning for improved development impact. USAID leaders also facilitated several breakout sessions throughout the day designed to solicit feedback from implementing partners in attendance as well as stakeholders from across the agency. Melissa Patsalides, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for PPL, highlighted the event’s success: “The event was extremely professionally conceived and facilitated. There was a lot of valuable dialogue and feedback that took place in the breakout sessions as well as the plenaries.”

As USAID prepares to undergo a substantial redesign and organizational transformation, CLA tools and approaches will be at the forefront of this change management process. Through the LEARN contract, RTI helps to ensure the Agency approaches both internal and external change in a way that is intentionally focused on collaborating, learning, and adapting to achieve greater development results.