What are the features, values, and practices of effective learning organizations? How do learning practices contribute to more effective programming? And, how can collaborations between academics, researchers and practitioners better support learning organizations in the global South?
These are just a few of the questions that a new global learning collaborative seeks to explore. In doing so, in its aim to support the learning and effectiveness of organizations pursuing transparency, accountability, and participation (TAP) outcomes.
So, what is this new TAP Learning Collaborative?
Launched in January 2018 with the support of Ford Foundation and Hewlett Foundation, this new Collaborative will explore the questions outlined above and more through a wide range of processes and activities implemented by four “learning Hubs” — Centro de Estudios para la Equidad y Gobernanza en los Sistemas de Salud (CEGSS), Center for Law, Justice and Society (Dejusticia), Twaweza East Africa, and Global Integrity. These Hub organizations are established TAP organizations that are already making use of reflective learning approaches in their work. They will engage with, and draw on the expertise of three resource organizations that promote practitioner-based evidence and learning in the TAP field broadly: the Accountability Research Center at American University (ARC), MIT Governance Lab (MIT GOV/LAB), and the Transparency and Accountability Initiative (TAI).
Over the course of this two-year initiative, these Collaborative members will aim to:
- Better understand the factors that obstruct and facilitate effective learning within organizations, particularly in the global South;
- Learn how learning can contribute to achieving TAP goals more effectively;
- Accelerate learning among TAP organizations
- Support the integration practitioner evidence and priority questions into the global TAP research and advocacy agendas; and,
- Build support for effective learning within TAP organizations among philanthropic actors.
How will it work?
The Collaborative will work towards these goals through flexible, dynamic and networked learning activities among the learning Hubs, resource organizations and their partners. Collaborative members will not create and implement new projects. Instead, they will focus on deepening learning practices in their own work, as well as among the organizations and partners in their networks.
For example, some learning Hubs plan to revise their organizational theories of change, and call on other Hubs or resource organizations to provide critical peer feedback on that process. Hubs will also conduct research with resource organizations to improve their program strategies and further develop their internal monitoring, reporting, and strategic planning capacities. And, both Hubs and resource organizations will engage in various activities to share their experiences and support learning among partners organizations in their respective networks.
While collaboration and partnerships between Hubs and resource organizations will primarily respond to shared needs, resource organizations will also help connect learning and experiences from the Collaborative to the broader TAP field. For example, they plan to map the Hubs’ theories of change and strategies onto existing governance research, broaden access to agenda-setting actors, and synthesize lessons from Hub efforts.
Overall, this new Collaborative aims to build relationships among our members, their networks, and other TAP-focused organizations. Our model assumes that the best way to do this is through practice-based and iterative work together through both in-person and virtual exchanges, moving beyond lighter-touch conversations and periodic information sharing. This, however, isn’t easy to coordinate over geographic and time differences as well as varying organizational and work contexts. That’s where I come in! To help facilitate this type of interaction and serve as the “connective tissue” of Collaborative, I’ll be the Learning Collaborative’s facilitator based at Dejusticia. As such, I will be overseeing the coordination and development of Collaborative activities and knowledge curation.
There’s no doubt that learning and adaptation are increasingly recognized as essential to effectiveness among civil society groups. And these practices have certainly gained traction among groups working on transparency, accountability and citizen participation along with the international development field more broadly. But much remains to be explored and learned as to what this means in practice, especially for organizations in the global South. As the plans of this new Collaborative unfold over the coming months, updates on what members are learning will be shared here on the TAI blog, among other venues. So, stay tuned!
Archana Pandya is the Coordinator of the TAP Learning Collaborative. Follow her at @Archana097.