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Collaborating, learning and adapting

The complexity of the context and the Activity interventions prompted the team to integrate Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting (CLA) best practices into Activity design and implementation. 

  1. The Activity is working in two distinct, yet interrelated communities (refugee and host). The interventions do not distinguish between host community and refugee status, while taking into consideration each population’s unique needs.
  2. The number of interrelated interventions adds to the complexity of this Activity and the need for iterative learning and adaptation throughout design and implementation.
  3. The context in which the Activity is working is both critical and complex. As war and health crisis continue to plague neighboring countries, the number of people entering Uganda is growing rapidly. As a result, national policies regarding refugees are changing rapidly. For example, WFP recently changed their cash and food assistance strategy from a decreasing amount over 5 years to full, permanent support. The Activity had to adjust the consumption support intervention to align with change in the national strategy.
  4. Relationships between the host population and refugees are predominantly positive, but strained relationships among the refugee population are stable, yet tenuous.

To do this, the Activity created a comprehensive CLA plan early in the planning process that presents an integrated approach to program-level learning-while-doing. This combines routine monitoring data and analysis alongside a clear plan for regular reflection, feedback loops and adaptive management. Additionally, the Activity is part of Food For Peace (FFP) refine and implement (R&I) approach, allowing one year to learn, modify and plan before implementation. During the refinement year, the consortium has taken tremendous steps to embed CLA methodologies in its day-to-day work such as the aforementioned iterative learning during the PRA. The Research and Learning Advisor works hand-in-hand with Technical Advisors when conducting pause-and-reflect sessions. AVSI leadership calls for both formal and informal before and after action reviews. Lessons are learned daily; information accumulates with each stakeholder engagement or assessment conducted. We, as a consortium, must grow and adjust in response. Examples of our CLA plan in action include the following. 



Understanding that local engagement leads to local ownership and ultimately improved development outcomes, the Activity is working closely with key stakeholders during the refinement year, laying the groundwork for ongoing collaboration during implementation. Examples of this collaboration include:

  • Creating awareness about the interventions planned and reporting on those conducted to inform the stakeholders of our work and mitigate the negative effects caused by false rumors.
  • Sharing experiences and learning from non-governmental organizations implementing similar activities, such as best practices related to graduation criteria and lessons learned concerning targeting beneficiaries through the formation of an East Africa graduation Community of Practice.
  • Collaborating with other implementing partners in the area to prevent duplicating efforts, leverage synergies and resources across implementing partners’ activities. 


As part of the R&I structure, the Activity will use Scenario Planning to address development challenges that hinge on specific but uncertain outcomes. To do this, the Activity has identified situations that may affect program design and has analyzed these situations to plan adjustments accordingly. Examples of scenarios that may affect program design and implementation include:

  • At the end of 2018, the Office of the Prime Minister announced that the Rwamwanja Refugee Settlement could receive an influx of 30,000 new refugees at any time, greatly increasing constraints on already strained land and other resources. The Activity is conducting analysis to understand: 

        – Profit margins of selected crops to be promoted through Activity interventions should land size decrease
        – Land rental access for refugees 
        – Potential social conflict within the settlement
        – Other crop possibilities that require less land
        – Other off-farm livelihood possibilities including business and skilled trade options

  • Members in the community may or may not be part of Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) groups. This information will determine if the activity creates new VSLA groups or does financial training in Farmer Field School Groups. The Activity conducted a VSLA assessment and determined that VSLAs did exist but were not functioning well and there that new VSLAs should be formed.
  • As women are the point of entry for interventions it is important to understand their access to cell phones. The Activity currently plans to provide consumption support and an asset transfer using mobile technology, but the approach may change if women do not have access to mobile phones. This will be determined using the targeting Scorecard. One question about female cell phone ownership was added. This question will not be used for wealth ranking, but will help determine asset transfer and consumption smoothing modality.
  • Based on preliminary interviews and focus groups, youth tend to be more interested in off-farm activities. But upon completion of the labor market assessment, the Activity is considering increasing access to business skills because of the large interest in business opportunities rather than skilled trade such as tailoring or masonry.