By: Victoria Vlad (Scoala Mea Project Coordinator, Expert-Group, Moldova); Scott Abrams (Capacity-Building Advisor, GPSA); Irina Oleinik (Project Team Leader, World Bank Global Education Practice), Maria Poli (Capacity Building-Coordinator, GPSA); and Florencia Guerzovich (Lead Capacity-Building Advisor, GPSA).
 

Learning in the GPSA’s Portfolio

The Global Partnership for Social Accountability supports learning for improved social accountability results (see analysis of applications and selection process, and results framework). Building on knowledge and experience is a key component of the GPSA’s capacity development and partnerships for social accountability. We share these insights in this blog post series. The GPSA and its grantees are learning and adapting their operations (tools and tactics). They are also learning about the context and how to be more resourceful in implementing their broader strategies in light of that information. An issue we discuss in an accompanying blog post. 
 
5 Ways in Which Scoala Mea Adapted its Operations
Insights from Scoala Mea  -- a partnership that seeks to improve education outcomes in Moldova – helps illustrate what these two different and important forms of adaptive learning and management can look like in practice. Here we share 5 instances of operational adaptive learning / management:
 
• Iterating user-friendly data collection instruments: In 2014, Scoala Mea used Stakeholder Report Cards for the first time. When Scoala Mea’s team analyzed the initial results, it realized the instrument needed to be fine-tuned in order to yield the systematic results needed to move forward with the rest of their strategy. This was done in consultation with their regional partners, with government counterparts, the WB team supporting the government’s education reform, and GPSA capacity-building colleagues. The Report Cards have now been renamed and revised. They are now called “Participation Cards” to frame them as trying to help schools rather than grade them. Their language has been simplified, more objective data is collected and they are now administered online. These adjustments are intended to generate better, more candid feedback, and to position the surveys to be used in schools nationwide. 
 
• Adjusting the sample:  The project’s lead organization, Expert-Grup, learned from its regional partners that 5th and 6th graders had trouble responding to the survey instrument. The project team decided to change  the cohort to 7th to 12th grade pupils that could better understand the asks and provide more useful inputs.
 
• Demand-Driven Consultation Processes: Scoala Mea also uses Public Hearings to engage school communities in discussing the school budget and investment priorities. Initially, Scoala Mea invited around 50 students, parents, teachers and other community members to these hearings. Scoala Mea learned that there was much greater demand for participation. It opted to open up the events and arranged new logistics. To date, 5,000 people have participated in these citizen-driven events.
 
• Timing and sequencing of activities and information provision: Originally, the above-mentioned Report Cards were administered too late in the school year to be effectively used at the Public Hearings. That was changed so that the feedback gathered from thousands of stakeholders could help frame and inform the conversations and debates at the Public Hearings. 
 
• Building legitimacy and ownership of project’s activities on the ground: Scoala Mea’s implementing partners realized that local coalitions are better motivated if it’s made clear that the participatory monitoring process (e.g. feedback collection and follow-up action; school budgets’ hearings; etc.) can only be successful if it becomes a regular part of their ongoing work. Expert Grup has worked intensively with School Administration Boards to encourage this so that the process becomes a regular part of schools’ agendas and can continue after the project ends. It has also conveyed to its partners that their role is to help them facilitate information dissemination and collection, but not to lead the mobilization and participation process.  
 
A collective and flexible approach to implementing this social accountability process paved the way for the projects’ initial results, enabling it to reach all its set goals in 2015. The team was open to adapting its strategy and operations jointly with its partners, including government counterparts, as well as open to receive feedback and support from the GPSA capacity-building team and the World Bank’s sector team. Rather than sticking to an ideal theory of change, the team made an explicit decision to prioritize adaptive learning and management, recognizing that the reality must inform and turn such theory into a useful compass in practice. 
 
Read our second blog post on this issue and join us during the GPSA Forum to be held in May 2016 for more! 
 
This blog series will highlight key aspects of conversations between the civil society groups leading the projects and their partners, including World Bank project leaders, partner CSOs, government counterparts and the GPSA’s Capacity Building Team. They offer key lessons about the project’s implementation to date, including some examples of adaptive management and learning for strategic social accountability.  Curated by the GPSA Communications and Capacity-Building areas. 

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