Workshop Session (2)

 Learning for Adaptive Management 

May 19, 2016 | 2-3:30 PM

1. Can Funders ‘Afford’ to Learn? Can Their Clients and Partners Afford it if They Don’t?

Moderator: Charlotte Ørnemark, Knowledge & Learning Team, GPSA
Discussants: Soniya Carvalho, Lead Evaluation Officer, Independent Evaluation Group (IEG), World Bank Group; Bruce Kay, Chief, Governance and Rule of Law Division, USAID Democracy, Human Rights & Governance Center; Maria Gonzalez de Asis, Lead Operations Officer, Programme Manager, Science of Delivery Team & Global Delivery Initiative, World Bank; Alexandra Maclean, Social Development Adviser, Empowerment & Accountability Team, Policy Division, Department for International Development (DFID), UK and Katherine Bain, Senior Governance Specialist, Governance Global Practice, World Bank Group.

There is renewed interest among donors about how to work more adaptively, respond to changing contexts and develop adaptive competences and incentives for better results delivery.  It implies changing – not only their own internal learning and knowledge management approaches – but also institutional cultures and day-to-day practices. In social accountability initiatives, where progress is dependent on working adaptively across multiple actors in response to citizen feedback, this becomes particularly important.

Even so, building an internal culture for working more adaptively may not be easy when institutional incentives and informal knowledge sharing practices do not align with the experimentation and risk-taking that learning-by-doing often calls for in social accountability interventions.  Can donor institutions like the World Bank afford to invest in how they learn?  More importantly, however, can its clients and beneficiaries afford it if they don’t?

Two recent Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) evaluations of Learning and Results at the World Bank, found among other things that while tacit knowledge (the knowledge contained in people’s heads) can spark innovation and lead to operational breakthrough, it is often not used systematically. The Bank’s 2015 World Development Report ‘Mind, Society, and Behavior’ points to a number of innovative approaches. Similarly, recent efforts by DFID to develop a set of Smart Rules for programme delivery have aimed at stripping back process, reducing internal bureaucracy, and removing non-value added approval layers. USAID, as a funder of Making All Voices Count, has also sought to apply a more adaptive approach to its programming in the field of social accountability, democracy and governance promotion efforts. This session will gather some of the lessons in donors’ efforts to respond to an increasing need to work adaptively, with a chance for participants to discuss what the implications for advancing social accountability are.

2. Practitioner Oriented Research Collaborations in Practice: Why Iteration is Key and What Does it Take?

Moderator:  Florencia Guerzovich, Lead Capacity Building Advisor, GPSA.
Discussants: Annie Baltar, Program Manager, Concerned Citizens of Abra for Good Government (CCAGG); Ester Alkonga, Executive Director, Recite; Varja Lipovsek, Director, Learning, Monitoring and Evalusation, Twaweza; Dante de los Angeles, Director, Partnership for Transparency Fund; Lily Tsai, Associate Professor of Political Science, MIT Governance Lab and Nina McMurry, PhD candidate, MIT Governance Lab.

CCAGG, Recite, Twaweza and PTF are partnering with the MIT Governance Lab (MIT GOV/LAB) on practitioner-oriented research partnerships. These partnerships seek to lever research (and the joint research process) to improve concrete projects, strengthen organization’s learning capacities, train practice oriented researchers, and produce knowledge about civic participation and accountability.

A unique characteristic of these collaborations is that they are long-term. Partners work together on specifying theories of change, test them, and over time iterate them to incorporate what they have learned.

In this session, you will hear why these very different organizations join into these partnerships? What are the benefits and the challenges? How do they iterate together in practice? Concrete examples will trigger an open conversation about experiences and concerns workshop participants have about research partnerships and, more generally, the broader range of initiatives under way to integrate learning into social accountability projects.  Speakers are also interested in learning from colleague’s ways in which their experiences and efforts could help support the work of more colleagues in the field. 

3.Scoala Mea: Strengthening Educational Reforms Through Social Accountability in Moldova

Moderator: Scott Abrams, Social Accountability Advisor, GPSA
Discussants: Victoria Vlad, Project Manager, Expert Grup; Irina Oleinik, Project Task Team Leader, World Bank and Andrea Guede, Senior Operations Officer, Global Education Practice.


Moldova is in the process of decentralizing its education sector—a complex process that includes school amalgamation and a devolution of resources. Scoala Mea (“My School”) is an initiative that seeks to improve education outcomes in this context.

To build toward success, Scoala Mea helps to engage all education stakeholders in an effort to provide real-time feedback on education services so that schools, administrators and public authorities can make changes and improvements and are held more accountable for their performance.

Since 2013, civil society and government have implemented a social accountability strategy and introduced a set of participatory tools which have achieved a number of positive results, including opening up budget discussions in more than 40 schools and triggering new resource allocations by public authorities. 

While working to achieve these results, the Scoala Mea team faced a number of strategic and operational challenges. These included the need to re-sequence major project activities, reconstruct key social accountability tools, and reengage with a new Moldovan government. In addition, Scoala Mea was increasingly able to identify areas where it could buttress the overall Moldovan education reform process, including those supported by The World Bank.

In this session, the Scoala Mea team will share its learning and adaptation experiences, and the need to plan strategically but manage flexibly. These experiences are intended to generate a broader conversation with all of the session’s participants about adaptive learning and management.

4. Adaptive Capacity in Day-to-day Operations: Experiences from the Social Observatory in India

Discussant: Vijayendra Rao, Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

The Social Observatory was established in 2012 to improve the adaptive capacity of anti-poverty projects in a $2 billion portfolio of community-driven development projects in India. The purpose is to improve their ability to be nimble, to learn by doing, and to make mid-course corrections in management and design -- in order to be effective.  Adaptive Capacity is the ability to use evaluative and process-oriented information in every day decisions, in order to see better, to learn better, and to adapt.

During this workshop, the discussant will share some of the experiences to date and explore together with participants how adaptive capacity can be enhanced in day-to-day operations for continuous learning that leads to more effective implementation.

5. Citizen-led Action with Impact: The Role of Adaptive Program Design

Discussants: Jean Arkedis, Program Director, Results for Development and Sam Polk, Senior Program Officer, Results for Development.

Getting citizens to take action that leads to impact is challenging.  Which citizens should be mobilized?  What type of information motivates action?  How should it be shared?  Social accountability practitioners have to navigate these and other questions when designing a program that “fits” the local context, but what exactly does it take to design a completely new program, or adapt something that works elsewhere to a new context?  And, how do you know if your program is “working” and ready to be applied at a larger scale?   

In the ‘Transparency for Development initiative’, Results for Development Institute and the Harvard Kennedy School bring together researchers and civil society practitioners in an effort to co-design, pilot, assess, tweak and adapt community-led efforts to improve health outcomes in Indonesia and Tanzania. In this workshop they will share some of their experiences to date and invite workshop participants to explore, through a practical exercise, how to apply iterative adaptive program design using an example from their own environment or a case provided by the organizers.

6. Citizen-led Assessments of Education Services: An Example of Adaptive Learning Across Borders

Moderator: Patricia Scheid, Program Officer, Global Development and Population, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
Discussants: Sahar Saeed, Program Manager/National Head, ASER Pakistan and Bala Venkatachalam, Executive Director, Pratham USA/ASER India.

The session will shed light on how citizen led large scale household-based assessments particularly in India and Pakistan are gathering momentum by illustrating the power of informed citizenry to influence national and global agendas for education and learning. The presenters will discuss how a community led approach to data gathering and analysis in context is bringing about appropriate response from stakeholders, viz. local community, market forces and the government. Examples and experiences will be shared to highlight how these initiatives, influencing governance and accountability at the community, provincial and national levels, have learned over time and constructively engaged with key actors and government for active solutions.

7. Learning at the Frontline: Challenges and Opportunities for Action

Moderator: Michael Moses, Director of Advocacy & Programs, Global Integrity
Discussants: Gertrude Mugizi, Head of Programme, Regional Learning, Public Social Accountability Monitor; Aly Lala, Researcher, Concern Universal, Mozambique; Almudena Ocejo, Executive Director, Centro de Contraloria Social, Mexico and Lucia Nass, Head Capacity Development and Training, Ethiopia Social Accountability Program.

This session will provide a space for sharing and reflection about putting adaptive learning into practice within the context of social accountability programs. Speakers from Ethiopia, Mexico, Mozambique and South Africa will kick things off, outlining how they have put adaptive learning into practice in their work, the challenges they have faced, and the ways in which they have addressed them.

The session will break out into give participants the opportunity to discuss whether and how adaptive learning approaches have been, or might be, a useful element of their work on strengthening social accountability. It will close with a plenary in which we hope to make connections amongst organizations’ experience and provide some summary reflections about putting adaptive learning into action.