Piloting CLA Awards in The Philippines:
USAID Learning Lab Blog

This article originally appeared on the USAID Learning Lab website on July 30, 2021. You can read the original article here.

Pilot builds on CLA best practices

Panagora Group holds the USAID CLAimHealth contract, which supports the agency to effectively implement its health portfolio in the Philippines through high-quality monitoring and evaluation data, continuous learning, and adaptive management.

Following four years of robust activities to raise awareness and build capacity on approaches to integrate CLA among health portfolio IPs in the Philippines, the CLAimHealth team supported the USAID/Philippines Office of Health (OH) in launching the Mission’s first CLA Awards competition. The competition both stimulated the capture of local approaches to improve development programming through collaborating, learning, and adapting, and served as a barometer of CLA internalization and the USAID/Philippines OH and the CLAimHealth team’s efforts to elevate CLA culture. Thus, the Philippines CLA Awards program was born. The team solicited and reviewed entries between October 2020 and January 2021, and a panel of judges ultimately selected finalists and an award winner in April 2021.

Award results show room for growth in CLA in the Philippines

There were seven entries in total, with one IP submitting four of those entries. This gives the impression that a few partners have more confidence in their CLA efforts, and/or they have the absorptive capacity to develop entries on top of their daily remit for the Office of Health. The partner that submitted multiple entries had planned to resubmit these to the global CLA case competition–another indicator of strong commitment to CLA. This tells us that there are IPs who are either more advanced in their internalization of CLA or who are keen to establish a leadership position among the IP community in terms of CLA.

The USAID/Philippines OH and the CLAimHealth team expects to see more entries as we wind up for a repeat of this activity in the fall of 2021 as a means to reinforce institutional learning and overall project performance. Overall, the annual recurrence of the CLA Awards should contribute indirectly to improvement of USAID Health Project goals.

Top five tips for others trying something similar

While we are still learning from this exercise, we put together the following lessons learned for others to follow in the future:

  1. Secure buy-in from USAID. Since our team conducted this activity on USAID’s behalf, we found it important to have a shared vision with the AORs on the goals of the CLA case competition and how it supports their own objectives. Half the panel of judges came from USAID, while the other half from our roster of CLA Champions—a group of prominent health professionals we assembled as a resource for USAID CLA activities. Their prominence as academics or former health secretaries strengthens the profile of activities we host for USAID. We invited an additional judge from Panagora in order to represent the organization’s leadership role in CLA practice.
  2. Clearly communicate information. Our team prepared a comprehensive digital leaflet, which we disseminated via the OH’s Knowledge Library, a knowledge portal for USAID and IPs, and “e-cards” to remind partners of key dates.
  3. Help partners with their learning curve. Like us, many will be doing this for the first time. To prepare IPs for the competition and encourage participation, we invested in a learning session in December 2020, which provided resources and examples to build confidence among partners.
  4. Devise a way to track participation. All the entries for the CLA Awards were submitted on the final day before the deadline. As a result, we were unsure just how many (or if any) entries would be submitted until the final day of the contest. In hindsight, requiring registration to join the contest would have been a simple way of estimating returns and prepare for next steps.
  5. Develop a visibility package for the winner. Visibility and prestige are the main prize for CLA case competitions participants. For these CLA Awards, our team worked with the Office of Health for commitments to publish CLA Awards content over their different visibility channels. Then, we produced the content for USAID and submitted the package for publication. One challenge to anticipate is that your activity may not be able to guarantee a publication schedule once materials have been handed over to the client, as even the Office of Health has to follow a content schedule from USAID’s digital and social media managers.

Summary of learnings

The USAID/Philippines Office of Health and CLAimHealth team took a risk by replicating USAID’s CLA Case Competition locally. However, as a learning organization, we have also reflected on lessons we can carry forward into the next CLA Awards competition, such as identifying contingencies–in case of extremely low participation or need for improvements in the mechanics. We look to innovate the parameters of the CLA Awards next year to provide new challenges and to home in closer on USAID’s ultimate goal of moving the needle for Health Project investments.

Have you experimented with CLA or other case competitions in your Mission or bureau? What lessons are you carrying forward?

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