CDCS mid-course stocktaking provides a structured opportunity for the Mission to reflect on how contextual changes and results to date confirm or challenge core assumptions of the strategy. It is a time to reflect on how implementation of the program (including projects and activities) supports the strategy’s development objectives in practice, and whether these could be better aligned. Conducting this exercise helps ensure that lessons learned and changes in the mission’s internal and external environments are better integrated throughout the Program Cycle. The CDCS mid-course stocktaking can:
- Focus on learning from the DO and overall strategy levels, as well as related mission management processes, to guide near-term course correction, validate the development hypotheses, revisit assumptions and inform future planning;
- Build on and extend other processes for reflection and adaptive management;
- Reinforce continuity and institutional knowledge among new and existing staff, particularly where there has been considerable staff turnover;
- (Re-)engage stakeholders and facilitate stronger relationships with and among them; and
- Look ahead to the next CDCS.
A CDCS mid-course term stocktaking would fulfill the requirement for a mission’s strategy-level portfolio review for that particular year.
CDCS mid-course stocktaking should be tailored to each Mission’s context and specific needs, as detailed in the CDCS MidCourse Stocktaking How-To Note. The points below are intended to help you start thinking about the purpose, scope, and format that your stocktaking exercise might adopt. Links to additional information and resources that will help you further define your stocktaking exercise can be found in the Tools and Examples & Guidance boxes to the right.
Determine the purpose of the stocktaking exercise. A core component of mid-course stocktaking is reviewing the existing strategy by thinking through how changes in context and/or results to date confirm or challenge core assumptions. That said, there are a variety of purposes for conducting a midcourse stocktaking (addressed at length in the How-To Note) and you will want to focus your efforts in a way that makes sense for your context and programming. You will need to make strategic choices about what to cover. It might help to ask the following questions: (1) What progress have we made? (2) What has changed? (3) What have we learned? (4) Where do we need to adapt?
Think about who should be involved, how and when. The mid-course stocktaking creates an opportunity to surface perspectives and debates that don’t often get aired. Who can reflect on aspects of programming that you can’t see from within your teams or Mission? How can you engage perspectives across technical, functional, institutional and geographic boundaries?
Develop the format. The purpose of the stocktaking exercise, as well as who you choose to engage and how, will help determine the format and timeframe of your stocktaking effort. Your format might include some combination of the following:
- Desk review
- Targeted interviews across mission teams
- Expanded DO team discussions/analysis
- Stakeholder consultations (internal and/or external)
- A mission offsite/retreat
- An expanded strategic portfolio review
- Team building exercises
- Scenario planning
Think carefully about timing. According to proposed ADS 200 series revisions, at least one mid-course stocktaking effort must be conducted during the course of CDCS implementation, but should be timed to align with the mission’s purposes or respond to significant shifts in the Mission’s operating environment (i.e. not necessarily at the two-and-a-half-year mark).
Right-size the approach for your mission. Each mission will have different needs from a stocktaking exercise. In some circumstances, a lighter effort, e.g. a desk review or series of interviews, may yield the necessary results.
Set clear parameters. The importance of defining clear objectives and deliverables cannot be overstated. This includes clarifying expectations about what aspects of the strategy are - and are not - amenable to change. There will never be a ‘perfect‘, ‘standard‘ stocktaking that answers all of your questions in a day or two, so set parameters and stick to them. Moving goal posts only exacerbate the challenge of arriving at a general consensus on the way forward.
Develop a facilitation strategy. It is essential to have someone at the Mission with the authority, interest, and bandwidth to carry the process through to completion. If you decide on a format that requires additional external facilitation, identify a facilitator as soon as possible and make sure that the facilitator has a clear understanding of your purpose and parameters.
Document the process and key decisions. Choices you make about the purpose and format of your stocktaking exercise will help determine your approach to documentation. Consider identifying dedicated note-takers for key events or conversations. Make sure that you know how decisions will be recorded and verified, as well as how stocktaking materials will be shared with new staff and/or key stakeholders.
Plan for engagement and follow-through. The success of the stocktaking effort will depend not only on its substantive focus but also on who it engages, the format of the engagement, and appropriate follow-through.