Pause planning and key decisions. Reflect on the context, what we need to know, and criteria for decision making. Because development programs operate in complex and dynamic systems, donors and implementing organizations are increasingly seeking to create programs that are collaboratively designed, embed continual learning, and are adaptable. Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting (CLA) is USAID’s approach to becoming a more effective development organization as it can: 1) reduce duplication and siloing, 2) base programs in evidence, and 3) support adaptive course correction. In fact, a literature review commissioned by USAID’s Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning found that a well-resourced and intentional approach to CLA can help contribute to improving organizational performance and development outcomes.

While collaborating, learning, and adapting are familiar concepts, what is new is explicitly building in CLA principles and processes at the beginning of project design and implementation so that CLA activities support project efforts to achieve intended outcomes.

Collaboration. As USAID’s flagship multi-sectoral nutrition project, USAID Advancing Nutrition considers collaboration is critical at both the project and activity levels. At the project level, we have staff who belong to multiple teams that share information across teams and bring diverse perspectives to issues. At the activity level, technical teams have identified and are engaging with key communities of practice/working groups in their respective areas to facilitate information-sharing and coordinate overlapping activities and mandates. We also engage with non-governmental and governmental organizations to collaboratively design and implement activities.

Learning and adapting. At the overall project level, we identify time points within the USAID Advancing Nutrition annual planning and implementation cycle where it is critical to conduct learning activities that convene staff to pause and reflect and capture tacit knowledge in support of adaptive management decisions.

CLA Topics

CLA in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Like all global development projects and activities, USAID Advancing Nutrition was caught off guard by COVID-19, which forced us to quickly reassess and adapt our programming as the pandemic spread across the globe. As the pandemic evolves, we continuously reflect on our activities and work plans to identify necessary pivots to continue delivering high-quality work while minimizing risk. USAID developed a CLA framework to support unanticipated challenges that has been used throughout USAID-funded work for several years. Our use of the framework during COVID-19 has guided our efforts to pause, reflect, learn, and adapt based on the best real-time evidence available.

To learn more about how the project has adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic, see this September 2020 brief.

Women’s Diets Learning Agenda

USAID Advancing Nutrition aims to generate global learning, evidence, and innovative practices on how to improve women’s diets, with a focus on pregnant and lactating women (PLW), to inform the design and implementation of nutrition programs and interventions. To do this, we developed a learning agenda on women’s diets to guide work planning and synthesis of evidence and learning on women’s diets across our multi-sectoral portfolio.

The agenda was developed from the strategic maternal, infant, and young child nutrition (MIYCN) planning document that the Nutrition and Health Systems and Early Childhood Development teams developed in collaboration with USAID. The MICYN strategy identified that women’s inadequate diets and many of the challenges that contribute to them are well documented. Unfortunately, there is a lack of programmatic evidence on how to improve women’s diets, especially during pregnancy and lactation. Even where there is evidence, data on program and service quality is not strong enough to demonstrate impact or effectiveness. Policymakers and program planners and managers need more information to determine a minimum effective package for optimizing maternal nutrition and effective strategies to implement it.

Through a collaborative and iterative process with USAID technical teams and USAID, we designed the women’s diets learning agenda to help fill these evidence gaps. We identified five key areas of inquiry and learning questions under each area that we aim to contribute answers to over the life of the project:

  1. Improving women’s diets through improved food market environments
  2. Improving women’s diets through demand creation
  3. Improving PLW’s diets through improved family diets
  4. Improving PLW’s diets through counseling and other health service delivery
  5. Improving PLW’s diets through improved policies and policy implementation

Activities

Photo of two women outside in a counseling session

Monitoring and Evaluation Online Course Repository and Search Tool

USAID and other implementing and academic organizations have developed virtual Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL) courses available to practitioners at no cost.

A graphic showing the different steps for quality SBC as individually labeled arrows around the words "Steps for Quality SBC"

New Tools for High-Quality Nutrition Social and Behavior Change Programming

Nutrition social and behavior change can be challenging, but the right tools can help programmers design, implement, monitor, and evaluate high quality social and behavior change programs.

Woman with her child in Senegal

Strengthening Programming with Lipid-Based Nutrient Supplements

Partner survey and interviews yielded recommendations for program design and capacity strengthening support.

Mothers holding their babies together

Technical Assistance to BHA and RFSA Implementing Partners

Providing technical support to improve programmatic outcomes

woman watering the garden

Agriculture in Emergencies - What Factors Influence Nutrition Outcomes?

Informing the future design of agriculture activities to improve nutrition outcomes in emergency programs through research.

Couple bargaining with a Fish Seller

Understanding Key Dimensions of Food Environments

Enhancing our ability to monitor and evaluate market food environments in low-and-middle income countries to improve diets.

Two men shaking hands at a store

Partnering for Improved Nutrition

Lessons and recommendations from the Feed the Future Nutrition Innovation Lab’s 10 years in partnering for improved nutrition

Link to download image of a family helping to feed two infants

Creating Country-Specific Food Lists to Measure Healthy Diets and Advance Nutrition

Collaborating to facilitate collecting reliable, comparable information on diet quality across country contexts

Nurse teaching breastfeeding to new mother

Nutrition Modeling for Improved Program Effectiveness

Improving the understanding and use of tools for designing and implementing effective nutrition policies and programs.

Learn more about how the USAID Advancing Nutrition Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning team leads efforts to inform nutrition policies and programs.
On July 12, 2021, USAID Advancing Nutrition launched a new country office in Burkina Faso. USAID Advancing Nutrition Chief of Party Sidi Coulibaly chaired the event, which included remarks from…
USAID Advancing Nutrition participated in ANH Academy Week Learning Labs on collecting dietary data and behavior change for complementary feeding.