GPSA Knowledge Platform



This topic contains 13 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  Florencia 5 years, 8 months ago.

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  • #1218


    Dear social accountability community,


    I am delighted to introduce the second e-forum convened by the Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA) to take place between June 9th and June 20th.

    To get us started we are posting a short note taking stock of the way entries from the first two rounds of GPSA applications propose to learn, but more importantly on how they use learning to explain what they have written into their projects.

    Check the data and help us reflect: how we are doing in terms of strategic use of learning in social accountability work to adapt our own work as we go? What should we individually and collectively be doing to improve our individual and collective use of adaptive learning?

    Any requests / challenges so that this community help you as you try putting your learning and knowledge plan to work for your social accountability project?

    Looking forward to your insights!


  • #1239

    Jonathan Phillips

    Hi everyone!

    One of the most fundamental ways of applying learning in social accountability is to use past experiences as an input to inform project identification and design. The wealth of tacit knowledge possessed by civil society organizations about what works and local political entry points is essential to the design of effective social accountability interventions. However, organizing this knowledge and using it to justify project design and inform funding applications has proven to be a challenging task.

    The analysis of 40 GPSA applications presented in the short note posted by Florencia suggests that CSOs find it quite difficult to demonstrate how their knowledge informs project design. The strategies proposed in applications were clearly justified on the basis of past experiences in only 12 out of the 40 cases. 13 applications provided a very limited justification, while 15 provided no clear rationale for the project.

    One great way to explain the choice of strategy is to evaluate alternative strategies and demonstrate why the proposal best fits the local political context. Yet, only 2 of the 40 applications did this explicitly. None of the applications made use of a growing body of literature that systematically evaluates the evidence on what works in what context for social accountability interventions.

    These shortfalls might just reflect the pressures of the application process or suggest the need for even clearer prompts in the GPSA application. Or they may represent deeper problems in the way CSOs and the social accountability community applies learning to our work, which might also flag challenges for the prospects for learning from new GPSA projects themselves. What do you think are the main challenges to articulating a strong justification for a project based on past experiences? Is it that we really do not have a good grasp on what works where? Or is it hard to harness and articulate this knowledge? We’d love to hear your thoughts!



  • #1249


    Dear All
    For us in Mozambique learning is very important aspect of our work and we link it directly to our Theory of change as learning helps us test our assumptions and adopt our Theory of change as project progresses. It is important to see the adaptions/amendments not as the failure of our theory, but as the learning process that will influence our future programming. Learning also has to be directly linked to M&E and discussed regularly with project staff, partners, beneficiaries and other interested actors. Moreover we have to acknowledge that context in some of our working environments is rapidly changing and so real-time context monitoring is an important factor of the MEL process.

  • #1251


    Thanks Helena, you share a great insight: learning “from failure” starts with adjusting, applying the learning to improve how we go about our work.
    Helena, how are you creating space for this kind of learning in your GPSA KL plan? I’m sure others would benefit from concrete questions, ideas, tips as they finalize their plans.
    Others, can you share examples when you were/ weren’t able to put learning to work for you?

  • #1252


    In AFIC’s case, one of the demands for learning is building the evidence for citizens access to information and participation. For the last three years we have used the idea of promoting citizens’ right to information and participation in the area of public contracting. There have been three main recurring questions by especially public and private sector. The first aspects deals with capacity- whether local community members can monitor technical works, whether they can make a difference on performance and value for money. The second aspect is about building trust and constructive engagement with public officials who have known civil society for activism while the third is accessing and making use of contract information. Our knowledge and learning from our project will seek to gather learning and evidence on these aspects.

    My interpretation of Florencia and Maria Poli’s analysis is that applicants’ learning goals take different dimensions but emphasis of a particular dimension will be influenced by immediate needs or particular experience. This could explain why fewer indicated scalability. Knowing specific influences and circumstances and ideas for planning scalability- even in new initiatives would be a very interesting continuing discussion. Thank you Florencia and Maria.

  • #1267


    Care Malawi is also taking issues of learning seriously and is planning improved documentation of project processes and lessons learnt which will feed into reflection on how we are perfoming. This will help us analyse where we need to make changes to ensure that we achieve our project goals and also inform our future programming. We are working together with other education projects within Care to learn and share best practices. We have planned sharing/feedback sessions with other Care staff, project staff, partners and stakeholders. We believe that this will contribute to our learning and adapt where necessary. The GPSA forum is also proving to be a good learning ground for us as we access information from other grantees.

    We will be sharing more as we start to implement the project in the field as we believe many more knowledge and learning issues will arise then.

  • #1287


    Thanks Gilbert. Your post reminds me of a point that is particularly important: who is your audience? One of the questions we asked as we reviewed applications is: Does the project approach learning as an exercise to course-correct and improve its work rather than as a tool to share success/best practices for others to take up?

    For us learning, is the extent to which each GPSA applicant “gains and uses knowledge to influence ITS policy, strategy, plans and actions. This includes knowledge from both its own work and that of others”. (click here for more on this approach). While there are needs to build evidence to influence others’ behaviors, our concern is how the GPSA applicants and grantees will go about using learning to improve their own work. If our work doesn’t deliver, it will be tougher to get the kind of evidence World Bank President and others are asking about social accountability and the GPSA.

    We found that this ideas of learning lacking in applications and want to understand better how and why to make progress so that our joint social accountability effort takes up on what we learn?

    I am encouraged to read that Yvonne and Helena suggest you can build processes and mechanisms for adaptive learning in your GPSA projects.

    At the same time, we are aware that the tasks and the incentives are not always conducive to spot and reflect on what works and what doesn’t and take on board lessons from our own successes and failures. I suspect that may be undermining our ability to discuss your learning plans in this public e-forum.

    The hope is that we can move together in a more productive direction. Our take is that strategic social accountability that delivers calls for it.


  • #1288


    B. Halloran from T/AI just posted a blog discussing why learning & adaptation are central to Making All Voices Count (MAVC):

    As I read the blog, I came up with a series of questions that seem relevant to think more strategically about your learning plans:

    – what assumptions are GPSA and MAVC making about learning, especially with strong focus on adaptation in the field?
    – what are common challenges projects of both funds face for incorporating adaptive learning?
    – different theories of change seem to make a difference for the types of projects GPSA and MAVC fund. Tactical vs. Strategic, Long-term vs. Short-term, amounts of funds per project.
    if so, should we to do things differently in terms of learning in both cases, to take into account different operational context in which projects are implemented?

    FYI I am trying to organize a panel to kick start a conversation, ideas are very welcome!


  • #1292


    Dear Florencia,

    Thank you for this opportunity to discuss and share ideas on strategic use of learning.

    What I have learned from the work talk on our Knowledge and Learning plan, with Olive and Marcos from the GPSA team, is that learning from our projects should be an ongoing process. We should adapt our strategies, as a way to get our projects working. At this point, not many times we put this tacit knowledge down in writing as learning, except annual reports.

    This is an improvement opportunity for organizations – to get better at framing this tacit knowledge, by using various communication tools – even the way we speak about our projects within our project teams.

    • #1293

      Anowarul Haq

      Dear Florencia,

      Thanks for sharing the blog link of Brendan Halloran of Transparency and Accountability Initiative . It is quite interesting and re-enforcing the fact that initiatives on social accountability need to tackle “the politics of accountability”, otherwise initiatives lead only “to decent customer service, not to accountable governance”.

      On the issue of “learning”, it is absolutely essential to pay attention on “Learning and Changing”. Many times we learn, but often do not use the learning to change our course of action and business continues as usual. “Learning and Changing” can only happen if a flexible learning culture is established within a project that encourages to embrace failures and to change strategies accordingly.

      Also, what we have generally experienced about the learning is that learning mostly stays within projects in an informal manner. Synthesizing and sharing learning to outside audience require skills, resources and time and ironically, most of the projects cannot afford it. So it turns out to be a wastage of opportunity, but unfortunately this is what happens in most of the cases.

      On what the social accountability projects should focus to learn, I agree with Brendan that the key is to understand “what drives government responsiveness”. We all know that addressing a governance issue is about influencing the politics of decision making. The problem is always “mammoth” in nature and it needs to be analysed and understood thoroughly using the “political economy” lens. The projects should have the knowledge management mechanism in place to learn how efforts through a project are triggering changes, especially “what drives government responsiveness”. Our experiences on inclusive governance work emphasises the fact that it is critical to identify an effective “entry point” that ensures the involvement of relevant actors including politicians for triggering the change process – the ball needs to start rolling. Then it is important to draw a pathway of reaching the vision for change. So for the learning, understanding the sequencing of activities that works is quite important. If it is done well with real evidences, it is easier to convince the politicians and policy makers to scale up. The challenge is, any changes in governance (“political accountability”) require time and longer term engagement, but we often prefer to take “short code route”, which allows very tiny space for streamlining the learning of “what works to grapple with the ‘political accountability’” and then putting efforts for scale up the learning.

      Victoria, thanks for sharing your thoughts too.



  • #1294


    Dear Victoria and Anowarul,

    Many thanks for your candidness. As Maria, Jonathan and I write in the think piece, we are aware that learning and changing is a problem bigger than the GPSA itself. One that requires thinking about all stakeholders in the field and their relationships, not just implementing CSOs.

    In order to discuss the GPSA’s expectations and your learning plans, we also need to acknowledge that this is hard and not business and usual. As Victoria put it, “At this point, not many times we put this tacit knowledge down in writing as learning, except annual reports”. There is no clear, full proof pathway.

    It is important to understand our own capacities, incentives, and practices.

    ”Also, what we have generally experienced about the learning is that learning mostly stays within projects in an informal manner. Synthesizing and sharing learning to outside audience require skills, resources and time and ironically, most of the projects cannot afford it. So it turns out to be a wastage of opportunity, but unfortunately this is what happens in most of the cases.”, as Anowarul stated.

    As GPSA participants, nonetheless, we still face a big challenge: the GPSA’s ability to deliver, as per its theory of change, hinges on our ability to learn, to try new types of interaction with government, and to deliver on our projects (which is why the GPSA set such a high bar for project selection in the first place).

    GPSA grantees have a chance for innovating and improving. Because the GPSA is such a new and untested entry point, seeking collaboration between government and civil society through strategic social accountability, our performance will most likely affect many others in the social accountability field. Many Global Partners are eager to see the World Bank scale up the GPSA but this seems to depend on our ability to forge a meaningful and effective collaboration with government, and to demonstrate that civil society is agile enough to adapt its interventions to local conditions, to learn from its mistakes and communicate convincing insights.

    Since this e-forum finishes tomorrow, concrete ideas to navigate this challenge in real world learning plans are very welcome! These could include what a grantee can do design and implement a learning and knowledge management plan, but also how your funder could help out. It could also be a good chance to rethink how you 150+ Global Partners might contribute to the GPSA in a way that makes learning, changing, and delivering easier for you.

    I suspect the work and the exchange will need more time and a more accessible methodology? Hopefully, the conversation will be easier now that we’ve put the real issues on the table,

    Many thanks and warm regards,

  • #1295

    Anowarul Haq

    Dear Florencia and All,

    Let me share with you how we are planning to proceed on ‘knowledge and learning component’ here in Bangladesh:

    a. Baseline and Context Analysis: In the baseline, along with the indicators required for result framework, we would like to explore the context of political economy in the Unions and in the Upazillas. The detail analysis has already been done by CARE Bangladesh, so we are aware of the “typologies”. This will help us to understand the context better and later on to compare what kinds of changes have happened because of our integrated social accountability approach.

    b. Documenting the model and exploring effectiveness of various social accountability tools: This will help us to go into deeper on what works well, what not and what we should differently.

    c. Annual Participatory Impact Assessment and Impact Case Studies: This is a well established participatory assessment process, where community people identify key changes that have happened on an annual basis. In this process, the facilitators never ask what has happened because of the project, rather ask what changes have happened in the community in relation to livelihoods, essential services and entitlements in last one year (both positive and negative) and how. This Assessment provides a general trend of changes (anticipating that unintended outcomes may come out), which will be further analysed in detail through impact case studies.

    Now as I mentioned in my earlier post that sometimes project staff involved in implementation struggle to synthesise and capture the learning for wider sharing, in the JATRA project, we are collaborating with Bangladesh Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) under BRAC University. The experienced research wing of the Institute will help the project in baseline, documenting model and tools and documenting Impact Case Studies. CARE Bangladesh’s Social Analysis and Learning Team (SALT), a highly experienced team in participatory action and research, will work with BIGD on knowledge management.

    Our key strategy of influencing is focused on effectively using Horizontal Learning Program (HLP), a platform of local government representatives under Local Government Division of Government of Bangladesh facilitated by World Bank and more than 30 NGOs working on inclusive governance, to share and replicate good practices. The platform will also be used to influence policy makers. As CARE Bangladesh is an active member of Local Governance Initiative (LOGIN), another platform for sharing regional learning facilitated by SDC, the project will also use the platform for sharing of promising practices and collectively engage in advocacy required for mainstreaming social accountability mechanism in local governance. The project, using the knowledge and learning generated from the field, will work closely with Local Government Support Program II (LGSP II) of LGD, will take the opportunity to influence policy decisions on decentralisation and local governance.

    The project has also a plan to engage grassroots journalists in the process for fostering citizens engagement at the local level and to use media such as “community radios” to celebrate the successes.

    In addition, JATRA project will closely collaborate with Manusher Jonno Foundation, the other GPSA granette in Bangladesh, in organising learning sharing event and in influencing policy agenda.

    Our project team is just on boarding. With the team, we will finalise the Knowledge and Learning Management Plan by the end of next week in consultation with Marcos and his team.

    We are happy to receive feedback on our plan.



  • #1296


    Hi Anowarul: Glad to see that you volunteer to put CARE Bangladesh out there for others’ to comment. This is an excellent idea that we would like to explore further with other grantees as well. And while this is 2 week e-forum is about to end, we hope to continue this conversation during the coming months.

    By the way, we are also exploring how to organize a forum on Monitoring for Results and I guess that you are referring to the “Most Significant Change approach”
    If you had experience with it, we would love to hear it in the future.



  • #1298


    Dear all, I am writing to close this e-forum.

    I want to leave you with a couple of quotes from a new blog post by Ruth Levine from the Hewlett Foundation. I find them fitting to help us think out of the box about grant-making and learning:

    “I’ve started to think about grants as ways to test hypotheses—statements of our belief that money spent in a particular way will yield a particular result. Scientists use hypotheses to translate big questions into discrete experiments, and to focus their attention on whether what happens is what they expected to happen or something else entirely. If grant makers think in terms of hypotheses, it permits us to ponder without becoming paralyzed …
    …. Thinking about a grant as a hypothesis has helped me identify what we should be trying to observe and how we’re going to learn. To test a hypothesis, you have to look for both the evidence that confirms your beliefs and the evidence that might challenge them. That second part—looking for the things that will prove you wrong—is the hardest. But it’s also the most important, and the most informative. We should always try to disprove our own hypotheses, so that we learn whether our strategies were, in fact, good ones …
    …. There’s one other great benefit of thinking about grants as testing hypotheses. In science, no experiment fails if you’re able to learn something from it. People in our line of work could take a lesson from that”

    Thanks to Marcos for suggesting ways to continue the conversation. I am sure Anowarul would welcome inputs after the e-forum is over, special thanks for him for leading the way.

    Best, Florencia



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