May 12-14, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: USAID education staff from 7 African conflict-affected countries, joined by State Department and USAID/E3 Foreign Service Officers, participated in a newly developed USAID ECCN workshop titled Effective Education Program Design and Management in Crisis and Conflict Settings. The goals of the workshop were:
- Use data to inform responsive programming in crisis and conflict-affected settings;
- Design relevant, evidence-based results frameworks and articulate theories of change for education programs in crisis and conflict-affected environments;
- Plan for appropriate monitoring and evaluation of education programs in crisis and conflict-affected environments;
- Apply principles of collaborative, adaptive management into the design, oversight and management of education programming in crisis and conflict affected settings; and
- Procure, oversee and manage Rapid Education Risk Analyses.
USAID’s Nina Weisenhorn welcomed participants to the workshop and described how programming in crisis and conflict requires a shift from USAID’s traditional management approach, which assumes that we can foresee, with some certainty, how a country or sector will change over time. Jim Rogan of USAID ECCN discussed the multiple risks apparent in a crisis and conflict situation, and how one risk factor tends to exacerbate others. Rogan also introduced the RERA (Rapid Education Risk Analysis) tool as a way of quickly and regularly assessing conflict drivers and monitoring changes that are characteristic of conflict and crisis settings. In Weisenhorn’s session, participants discussed how the conflict and crisis context, equity concerns, and institutional capacity development interact, and participants shared how these factors played out in their current situations. The overarching message was that the conflict and crisis context is highly complex and unpredictable. This requires a new way of thinking about program design, one that requires more frequent and in-depth information, and allows for flexibility and adaptability.
While a strong theory of change is important in any context, the need for collaborative agreement about outcomes, and assumptions about the path to those outcomes, are essential to effective programming in crisis and conflict. Making these outcomes and strategies visible gives us an opportunity to ask “is that really what is wanted, and what is working?” Participants donned roles and developed an education program strategy for a simulated country named Nyambia, developed by USAID ECCN’s Ash Hartwell. Participants worked in groups and developed theories of change for their education program, giving rise to rich discussion and deeper understanding of program design for crisis and conflict-affected contexts. One of the biggest takeaways from this session was to focus on tracking outcomes rather than focusing only on specific inputs and activities.
Participants, through the simulation, learned how to collaboratively design feedback loops for tracking outcomes to inform program implementation in response to emergent changes. Better and more frequent information, and collaborative analysis based on that feedback, is required for adaptability at the program and project levels in the crisis and conflict context. Thus, the Nyambian simulation modeled USAID/PPL’s initiative, the Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting (CLA) approach, which is increasingly reflected in Mission’s program and project designs.
One Day 3, Barbara Brocker’s presentation on procurement reinforced the need to focus on outcomes. She discussed performance based contracting, a way of creating RFPs that provides adaptability and encourages implementing partners to apply their own expertise to develop and modify strategies towards program results and outcomes.
It was an intensive two and a half days, full of discussion, agreement and disagreement. Much was learned. We at USAID ECCN look forward to continuing to offer trainings such as this one.