Accepting the Challenge

I recently came across an article about USAID’s “Collaborating, Learning and Adapting (CLA) Challenge”. The challenge asks us to consider intentional and systematic practices to achieve our organization’s objectives using this CLA principle. Although this may seem like a straight forward concept it is easier said than done in the development world. In our experience, most organizations are driven by funding streams. They go from project to project scrambling between trying to achieve their missions within the confinements of donors’ priorities. For this reason, many organizations become short-sighted as they react and serve individual programs rather than integrating programs into the organization’s broader and longer-term strategy. This is one way in which organizations and their work become unsustainable over time. Unfortunately, development funding is structured in the same way military leaders described the war in Afghanistan “a one-year long war fought 16 times” instead of a war that has been fought over 16 years. This is because new military personnel get deployed every year after soldiers complete their one-year tour much like development programs end and others begin with new implementers sometimes recreating the wheel or even undermining previous efforts by not building upon already existing successes or connections with local partners. Therefore, as we try to “collaborate, learn and adapt” to fulfill our goals let’s not lose sight of our visions and the importance of building long-term relationships to become true drivers of change.


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