The collection and analysis of data allow organisations to develop and implement impactful and evidence-based strategies. GALVmed’s Commercial Development and Impact Function is committed to a developmental approach to monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL), which means that we use rapid learning to improve a project programme or affirm the need for a change of course.
To be truly developmental, this learning needs to feed back in a systematic way into our organisation. How do we do that? We use a framework for lessons learning to ensure that the lessons are integrated back into GALVmed. The Collaboration, Learning and Adapting (CLA) framework, developed and used by USAID, is a useful approach that we have adapted to frame our learning process. USAID defines CLA as “a set of processes and activities that help ensure programming is coordinated, grounded in evidence, and adjusted as necessary to remain effective throughout implementation” (ADS 201, 2016).
CLA is based in the understanding that development projects operate in complex systems, which shift over time. In this changing landscape, the objectives that we set out at the beginning of a project or programme can be affected over a three or five year period of performance. Responding in an adaptive manner ensures that we keep moving towards having a positive impact. The adaptive decisions we make must be based in evidence, which is why we are integrating processes for CLA into the beginning of our projects or programmes and adjusting these throughout the project or programme life cycle. Essentially, this is an approach to learning that fits in perfectly with our developmental approach.
There are three main steps in our learning process:
- The first step is to accurately define and diagnose the problem (or best practice). Some problems are logistical or operational and have easy fixes. But these, while important, do not usually make or break a project. Others are deeper and more complex and require a lot more thought and reflection to unpack them and to understand how to respond to them. Sometimes there are multiple causes to a problem, with some of them being root causes.
- The second step is to categorise the problem (or best practice). The use of categories ensures key information is not missed and helps to focus our thinking on lessons. To ensure consistency across projects, there are standard categories for each project and additional categories specific to a project can be added as needed.
- The third step is to define a road map for the way forward. This involves defining what action needs to take place, and how to know when that action has succeeded. At the end of a lessons learning exercise, there should be a road map that takes us from a lesson to action and adaptation.
Throughout this process, active collaboration is key to ensuring that we view our lessons from multiple perspectives and that our stakeholders have a voice.
This blog was written by Katharine Tjasink