Learning Improvement Projects: Outcomes and Reflections

Learning Improvement Projects: Outcomes and Reflections

Sep 6, 2013 by  Comments (0)

On Wednesday, September 4, Learning Improvement Project proposal submitters and other USAID staff gathered on the 7th floor of the Ronald Reagan Building to share information and experiences in the implementation of these projects. As KDMD referenced in a previous Lab Note, the objective of the Learning Improvement Projects is to catalyze Agency learning by sharing lessons learned from innovative pilot projects with the hope that promising approaches can be replicated and scaled up by others for greater impact. In order to be considered, each project proposal had to address all four components of the learning cycle (create, organize, share, and use), and ensure that the learning generated will not remain with a few individuals, but effectively shared out to and utilized by a broader audience. 

The five projects included:

1. A feasibility study on “Big Data” collection in Kenya that produced data on positive and negative impressions on local access to financing. (E3/DCA)

2. Technical improvements to the mapping software Field Papers and the HOT Export Tool, associated with Open Street Map, which enhanced the functionality of these tools as well as their utility for “non-techie” development practitioners in the field. (DCHA/OTI)

3. Scoping to determine the best system to house and publicly share cost-benefit analysis data (E3/EP)

4. Digital stories documenting the Jamaica Community of Practice to help inform future projects, with an emphasis on local facilitation, sustainability, and community of practice guidance. (USAID/Jamaica) 

5. Development led by TechChange of the Advocacy Resource Center, a self-paced training based on OTI’s work in Lebanon, which is intended to inform advocacy and capacity building efforts in international development. (DCHA/OTI/Lebanon)

Consistent with many learning initiatives, few of these projects progressed as originally planned. As more information was gathered and capabilities were assessed, projects were able to adapt accordingly.  After 4 months of work, project members shared their reflections on the progress they made.

  • In addition to flexibility, a willingness to talk to other colleagues, and thinking outside the box, project members discussed the importance of securing Mission buy-in and making time for outreach. 

  • When asked if the projects had been worthwhile, one project member hoped that their work would catalyze ideas among other Agency colleagues.

  • Another person pointed out that the Learning Improvement Projects allowed Washington, DC-based ideas to come to fruition, when preference is often given to ideas that emerge from the field.

  • Finally, a project member underscored the challenges associated with finding the right tools for learning projects and suggested that PPL take the lead in helping staff understand all the systems and tools that are currently available so they can avoid reinventing the wheel.

Stay tuned to Learning Lab's Lab Notes for updates on the Learning Improvement Projects. You can also follow Learning Lab on Twitter (@usaidlearning) to learn more!

Three photos of meeting participants listening to presentations