Asking good questions, designing adaptable programs, and keeping a strong focus on outcomes has been the operating context for our work on Measuring Impact. What did we learn? First, staff of USAID are deeply committed to achieving the Agency’s mission. Second, even though change can be hard, it can also be fun, creative, and energizing. And finally, there are some key ingredients that an institution needs to “bake in” as it embarks on a change management program.
Capacity and culture matter. People’s best intentions to use new practices need capacity to apply them and a culture that supports their use. Through Measuring Impact, we saw that diversified capacity development programs, ranging from experiential learning workshops to individual coaching, peer-to-peer learning, formal training programs, and a suite of online support tools are essential to helping people learn new practices and apply that learning to their daily work. And these capacity development efforts thrive in a setting where learning is valued and promoted.
Useful resources, such as Measuring Efforts to Combat Wildlife Crime: A Toolkit for Action and Accountability and a set of three Biodiversity How-To Guides are often cited as key aids in helping conservation program staff take on new practices to improve program effectiveness.
People, platforms, and processes need to work together – Good institutional learning can only take place when there is thoughtful attention to the people who need information and how they will use it, the platforms that deliver information to them and engage their expertise, and the processes the institution uses to support good learning practices. Through Measuring Impact, we learned that integrating support across these dimensions created the right environment for organizational learning.
These insights garnered a USAID Case Competition video prize in 2015 for Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting (CLA) in action, entitled Connecting the Dots: Biodiversity Cross-Mission Learning Program. We were able to engage more than 350 staff from 30 missions in learning from each other about what works, what doesn’t, and in what context by supporting the development of two USAID cross-mission learning groups focused on conservation enterprises and on combatting wildlife crime. USAID’s Biodiversity Gateway now houses dozens of new learning products, webinars, and programming aids developed to meet pressing information needs and capture important lessons and knowledge from around the world.