By: Victoria Vlad (Scoala Mea Project Cordinator, 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).
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 about the context and how to be more resourceful in implementing their broader plans of action (strategies) in light of that information. They are also learning and adapting their operations (tools and tactics). An issue we discuss in an accompanying blog post.
2 ways in Which Scoala Mea Adapted its Operations
Lead Project Civil Society Partners are the Expert-Grup, in partnership with Centrul Regional CONTACT-Bălți, Asociația pentru Cooperare și Comunicare Democratică „DIALOG”, Fundația pentru Dezvoltare din Moldova, Centrul de Resurse pentru Tineret „DACIA” and Centrul Regional de Dezvoltare Durabilă.
Insights from Scoala Mea - a partnership that seeks to improve education outcomes in Moldova – help us illustrate what these two different and important forms of adaptive learning and management can look like in practice. We continue our discussion with 2 instances of strategic adaptive learning / management:
- Formalizing constructive engagement as a way to increase sustainability: Scoala Mea built a good working relationship with officials in the Ministry of Education (MoE) on an informal basis. This type of relationship worked well, while the same government officials were in charge. However, when the Ministry of Education’s leadership abruptly changed, the informal relationship that had hitherto undergirded the partnership became a risk for the project. For social accountability projects that invest in and leverage constructive engagement with government officials, the uncertainty posed by changes in an administration present a major challenge for achieving longer-term results. The new officials had no relationship and no obligation to Scoala Mea. After several conversations intended to build trust and share the project’s progress (and its complementarity with MoE’s work), Scoala Mea and the Ministry decided to formalize their relationship in 2015 through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) as a way to clarify the terms of collaboration which will in turn help towards the sustainability of their joint work.
- Implementing a multi-pronged strategy in practice and context: Initially Scoala Mea focused on local processes and dynamics at the school and community level. It implemented a range of social accountability tools discussed in the first blog post . However, it soon became clear that the structure of budget transfers in the country meant that many of the problems raised by schools required decisions at other levels in the decision-making chain. Like many other social accountability efforts, Scoala Mea had to rethink where the more promising leverage points are, and how to prioritize and link actions at different levels of government to achieve results with limited resources (see here and here). While the project does produce education budget analyses that are periodically shared and discussed with the Ministries of Education and Finance at the central level, the team realized that it needed to better integrate its local-level work with the national policy and budget feedback it was generating. This is critical to some of the initiative’s expected outcomes at the local level – such as increasing schools’ budget autonomy. It’s equally critical to meet the Ministry of Education’s interest in obtaining direct feedback from students and the school community. Moreover, it was at the rayonal (region) level where most discretionary education funds are held, and the project team needed to pivot toward officials at that level to gain influence on school spending.
Beyond Scoala Mea: Strategic and Operational Adaptive Learning and Management
In this 2-part blog post series, we reflected on Scoala Mea’s action/learning journey. These insights also led to a broader reflection about the GPSA portfolio and the field: despite the growing conversation around these issues in our field, being open about adaptation and course correction is not easy. It may be that we lack incentives and/or resources and time. It is also plausible that we have a long-term practice of associating learning and knowledge with publications, dissemination events, clicks on our websites and other forms of traditional knowledge management indicators that get in the way of change.
The GPSA found this challenge as it experiments with ways to improve the integration of monitoring mechanisms and the practice of adaptive learning. For instance, stories of adaptive learning and management are a staple in the regular conversations between GPSA grantees and their GPSA/World Bank counterparts, as well as in annual reports, but are generally absent when we ask specifically about adaptive learning (have you learnt something that led to a change in the way the intervention is being implemented?, also see other resources here, here and here H/T @petevowels @craigvalters).
We know there are others facing these and other challenges associated with making the best use of structures and mechanisms that already exist in our organizations for improving strategies and operations (check out Varja Lipovsek’s reflections here).
We hope to continue our learning journey and building bridges to those of others, so if you have insights, please share away!
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.