Resilience Exchange

What have we learned so far?

Evaluating progress and supporting collective learning

This section covers learning from BRACED relevant to the operation of a large-scale resilience-building programme, providing information for those financing resilience programmes and for organisations leading consortia. In particular it reflects on the experience of evaluating progress in resilience-building, and collective learning activities to support partners in a programme such as BRACED.

All of these activities must take account of the fact that partners’ primary focus is necessarily the delivery of their projects, and at busy times monitoring and reflection can feel burdensome. While reporting is a mandatory requirement for accountability, a more nuanced monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system can add significant value by supporting learning within the lifetime of a programme. Learning and accountability require different frameworks and approaches for M&E, and require balancing the trade-offs between the two functions to minimise the amount of data required to support both. The two purposes are distinct yet compatible, and they should be reflected and reinforced in the programme-level M&E structures.1

The third year of BRACED has seen the production of some of the richest evaluative evidence from the programme. As was always the plan, many of the evaluation activities have been building to this point and have now matured, producing some of the most compelling evidence from the intervention, project and programme levels.

Evaluating progress

Measuring the progress of a resilience programme is challenging, complex and resource-intensive. Different evaluation approaches and methods are needed to understand changes in resilience at the intervention, project and programme levels. Evaluations need to be useful to practitioners, their partners and the communities in which they are working. Appropriate timing of evaluations is crucial, with some interventions likely to produce an impact only after the main project activities are concluded – a reality that should be taken into consideration in project, programme and evaluation design. This can be done, for example, by budgeting for impact evaluations after programme completion.1

Understanding the extent to which BRACED projects are able to strengthen the resilience of the households, communities and organisations they work with is critical to ensuring that successful approaches are scaled up and replicated.

A significant effort is being made in BRACED to measure progress on building resilience, developing innovative new methodologies and tailoring existing ones. This range of methodologies must meet the needs of the projects as well as those who are examining BRACED at the level of the whole programme. The experience has raised a number of questions about measuring and evaluating resilience-building.

Donors commissioning impact evaluations of resilience programmes should ensure sufficient lead-in time is provided to avoid issues of baseline timing and allow for a wider range of methods to be used. Donors may also wish to consider commissioning ex-post evaluation once projects have finished, to allow maximum time for project effects and explore the sustainability of those effects.2

The definition challenge and how BRACED has approached this

The first challenge in measuring and evaluating resilience-building is to agree on what is to be measured: resilience of whom, and to what (e.g. household/person/community resilient to drought/flood/conflict/pests)? What needs to change, and by how much? And how do these different dimensions interact? At the individual project level, resilience is understood in different ways, and different working definitions are used for the purpose of project-level M&E.

For instance, the Myanmar Alliance project defined five dimensions of change:

It is not only BRACED that has this difficulty: a recently published systematic literature review concluded: “There was no evidence of a common, agreed definition of community resilience.”3The result is that it is difficult for many people to understand what resilience projects are, let alone measure their progress.

In DFID, a key indicator for performance is the so-called “KPI 4”, the fourth key indicator in the UK’s Investment Climate Finance (ICF): “Number of people with improved resilience as a result of ICF support.“ The formal KPI 4 guidance does not require a common approach across all projects and may need revisiting and revising for future ICF-funded resilience projects. The permitted range of methods and approaches for KPI 4 guidance does not allow for adequate cross-project or programme reporting. A review of the efficacy of different KPI 4 measurement approaches under BRACED would be beneficial.4

How has BRACED addressed the challenge?  At the programme level, the “3As” concept breaks resilience down into three recognisable capacities of anticipation, absorption and adaptation, which can be tracked to assess progress on interventions aimed at enhancing resilience.3 This is not a means of measuring resilience per se, but rather an analytical lens adopted by all BRACED partners as a means of usefully organising their interventions and the outcomes they aim to achieve. In reality, most of the BRACED partners have mapped their existing indicators against the three capacities in the 3As framework, rather than designing new ones in response to it. While attributing changes detected in resilience to one of the 3As can be viewed as a somewhat reductionist exercise, it has at least offered some means of comparing outcomes across contexts. The 3As framework is proving to be a successful strategic tool for planning interventions, helping to ensure that a comprehensive approach to building resilience is being adopted, as well as an approach to track resilience-building.

Yet there are also limits to how the 3As framework can help support analysis and explain the processes that are leading to change. The indicator structure for the 3As compartmentalises the capacities, which masks some of the complementarities and trade-offs between them. These trade-offs require more attention in future resilience programming. In particular, the long-term approach needed to build adaptive capacity and required by project implementers appears to conflict with the shorter-term “response”-driven approach communities need for building absorptive capacity.5

The baseline challenge and how BRACED has approached this

In resilience building we need to understand progress in relation to the starting point: what might seem like small steps or slow progress in one context may be vital foundational change in another. It is difficult to know what indicators to select in a baseline evaluation, since before the project starts it can be hard to know what is most relevant. In addition, BRACED projects do not take place in a vacuum, and in many of the project areas there are a number of other interventions and development efforts happening, with different but (at least partially) overlapping objectives, each contributing to overall resilience.

Finally, the climatic conditions at baseline may be very different to the conditions at the next data-collection point. If we accept that resilience can only truly be measured in the face of climate shocks and stresses, the uncertain frequency and severity of such climate events means that, in many cases, measurement tools will remain untested within the life of a programme, relying instead on assumptions, albeit well-evidenced ones. To go some way to addressing this, projects use different climatic indicators in composite indices to measure resilience to climate shocks. These are context-specific and are based on the project’s conceptualisation of resilience and how it aims to strengthen resilience through the interventions.

It is important to remember that climate shocks and stresses are dynamic and interpreted differently by different groups, including non-governmental organisation project and field staff, evaluators, academics, government officials and households. Ensuring a shared understanding of what climate shocks are and how they are reported is therefore critical at the outset when planning baseline data collection.

Baseline data-collection designs, including sample designs, should consider “shock-driven attrition”. A typical shock response employed by climate-vulnerable households may be to relocate, thus leaving the project area. For impact evaluations that use panel surveys – interviewing the same people at baseline and endline – this can make it challenging to locate the same respondents. Impact evaluations should consider including higher attrition estimates in sample-size calculations, or a budget for resources to track respondents who relocate.6

In Year 3 of BRACED, two impact evaluations were completed: for the Myanmar Alliance project and the SUR1M project in Niger. These were designed to attribute, with statistical confidence, changes in household resilience as a result of the BRACED project-level investment. Some of the key results from these are highlighted below.

Findings from BRACED impact evaluations in Myanmar and Niger

Myanmar Alliance: Positive but modest and variable impact in Myanmar 7

Results show that while the BRACED project in Myanmar was effective at building household resilience levels overall, there is a large amount of geographic variability across dimensions of resilience and for the poorest members of the community. Combinations of interventions seem to be effective, especially when linked to community participation and training, which appears to help households leverage the maximum increase in resilience. Despite the increases in resilience capacities, we were unable to identify any statistically significant (and therefore reliable) changes in higher-order wellbeing (e.g. food security) as a result of the project work. Observing these impact-level changes in two years between data collection rounds may be unrealistic.

 

SUR1M: Better outcomes for those benefiting from the SUR1M project8

Evaluation findings indicate that while those benefitting from the BRACED project are more exposed to potential climate shocks, they fare better than those who do not receive support. In particular, project beneficiaries are not only likely to deploy more positive or adaptive coping strategies, but they are less likely to deploy negative ones, and if they do so it is for a shorter period. However, these positive results have not yet translated into observable or measurable changes in food security as a higher-order indicator of wellbeing.

How has BRACED addressed the challenge? To overcome the issue of attributing change to the BRACED project in an already potentially “crowded” operational space, the evaluation team adopted quasi-experimental methods. This allowed the team to statistically control for any systematic biases and compare changes in groups that did and did not receive BRACED interventions. It is extremely challenging to use these approaches for resilience programmes with multiple interventions, and the methods were “stretched”.

Higher levels of potential attrition (people dropping out between survey rounds) were handled in the sample design stage. In the final analysis, the rate of attrition was less than that expected in Myanmar, where a panel survey was used. However, it should be noted that there was no significant shock in Myanmar between the two data-collection points, and this may have positively affected the rate of attrition.

The data collection challenge and how BRACED has approached this

Due to the contexts within which BRACED works, collecting high-quality data is extremely difficult. Challenges include moving around in project areas affected by conflict; reaching some remote rural areas that lack all-weather roads during rainy seasons; collecting longitudinal information for the same people, particularly in nomadic pastoralist communities; language; illiteracy; and a range of cultural sensitivities.

Working in Chad on evaluation of the BRICS project, Tufts University learned important lessons:

 

  • Do not underestimate the importance of sound logistics.
  • Trust and relationships are important. Use an experienced mobiliser to persuade village chiefs to facilitate interviews with women.
  • Throughout the training, ensure your enumerators are invested in the research. Talk to them about what the information will be used for, and share past findings. The more invested your enumerators are, the more care they will take to collect accurate data.
  • Wealth-related questions are sensitive. Asking a woman in Chad how many cows her family has is like asking someone from the global North how much she has in her retirement account. Train your enumerators to challenge responses respectfully, and remind respondents that the information they provide is confidential.
  • Before your enumerators start the survey, have them verify that they are talking to the right woman. Many women have similar names, so equip your team to verify names in a way that is culturally appropriate.

Of course, context matters, and the types of challenges can vary depending on countries, seasons or organisations. These lessons are specific to experience in Chad, but some are likely to be common to other countries. 1

How has BRACED addressed the challenge? At the programme level, BRACED draws on narrative reporting to explain processes and examine contexts and the implications for gathering data. Narrative reporting supports understanding and learning, and helps to contextualise results across diverse contexts, with different challenges and opportunities for change.

BRACED has also adopted innovative approaches to data collection using mobile-phone technology in Myanmar. Handsets were issued soon after a localised flood to those affected and a short face-to-face survey was conducted. Follow-up data collection was then done via mobile phones, with shorter surveys to track recovery post-shock. This reduced the time commitment required from respondents.

Research has highlighted four findings that have particular importance for research, policy and practice:

  • Levels of overall resilience change considerably over time. Though it may not be surprising that they drop dramatically after flooding, it is interesting to note the length of time needed for recovery. Most households in the Rapid Response Research (RRR) witness a sharp reduction in resilience for six months after the flood events. Average resilience scores then rebound up to 10 months later (though at somewhat lower levels than where they started). Not only does this provide invaluable insight into the depth and breadth of the flood’s impact on overall resilience, but it showcases the potential for these methodological innovations to allow development and humanitarian actors to track the effectiveness of resilience-building interventions.
  • The effects of flooding have a dramatic impact on all nearby households – not only those directly in harm’s way but those who self-report as not being affected by the floods. Indeed, both directly and indirectly affected households appear to show similar resilience trajectories, with scores dipping sharply, before starting to rise again six months after the floods. This highlights the extensive nature of climate impacts on wider populations – in this case likely owing to a range of negative spill-overs and the interconnected nature of livelihoods and markets. More importantly, it means development actors must be aware of these wider effects in their targeting strategies: limiting resilience-building interventions to those physically affected by climate hazards may put those living around them at considerable risk.
  • The negative consequences of flooding on resilience are felt in similar ways across most social groups. Many factors commonly associated with resilience (such as education and poverty) show few differences in the depth and breadth of their impact on overall resilience over time relative to baseline levels. In other words, although poor and marginalised groups may be disproportionately at risk to start with, this risk is not further magnified after a disaster takes hold. Resilience-building interventions may therefore have even benefits across social groups. One clear exception is female-headed households, which show a marked and sustained drop in resilience levels compared with male-headed households. This suggests that development actors may wish to pay particular attention in targeting female-headed households, both in disaster risk reduction initiatives and in post-disaster recovery support.
  • Falling back on personal financial buffers is by far the most frequent coping strategy in response to flooding. Use of savings and immediate sale of household assets account for half of all reported coping strategies reported by households in the RRR. This is followed by reliance on family and relatives, representing just over a quarter of total coping strategies. These insights underline the importance of safeguarding household assets from the impacts of climate hazards as well as provision of social safety nets (such as social protection mechanisms). It also highlights opportunities for development and humanitarian actors to promote social capital as a means of promoting disaster risk reduction and management – a factor rarely considered within resilience-building interventions.

The timeframe challenge and how BRACED has approached this

Resilience-building activities need to work across timeframes from short-term (seasonal) to long-term (decadal). Funded programmes such as BRACED have a lifespan, dependant on donor requirements, which does not always allow sufficient time for results to mature. This raises the question: over what timeframe is it realistic and reasonable to expect evidence of increased resilience? How long does it take to strengthen resilience and build a solid evidence base? The complexity of projects aimed at building resilience requires partners to understand and conceptualise resilience in order to design appropriate interventions. Many chose to combine individual interventions into packages to address the multidimensional nature of resilience. Experience in BRACED to date suggests that timeframes to build different capacities vary.

This means that not only is progress more difficult to measure (with potentially multiple causal pathways), but it may also take more time for changes to be detectable. In the worst case this may result in a “null evaluation”, i.e. not being able to say whether anything has changed. Apart from representing an investment risk, this may be misleading – changes may have occurred, but given the short time between survey rounds they may not be detectable.

One of the lessons we identify for policy and programming is that it is unrealistic to expect project interventions to deliver widespread, significant increases in wellbeing measures such as food security in the two years between baseline and endline.9

Findings from the Routes to resilience: insights from BRACED final year

BRACED projects have, to varying degrees, enhanced the absorptive, anticipatory and adaptive capacities of poor households and communities, focusing to varying degrees on different capacities in different contexts. At the end of three years, all BRACED projects have demonstrated all three capacities, but needed an extra year to see signs of adaptive capacity outcomes.

 

While resilience, by definition, requires flexibility and adaptation, outcomes that are shorter-term in nature (often geared towards absorptive and anticipatory capacities) may not go far enough in reflecting resilient change in the long term. Conversely, if projects were only to focus on long-term goals, they could also result in negative pathways and poor uptake if short-term priorities are not addressed. BRACED findings provide critical insights about the relative balance of different resilience capacities that can be achieved over time, with a stronger emphasis on anticipatory and absorptive capacities in the initial stages. More thorough and ongoing context assessments are required to better understand what is needed and when in each context. Finding ways to integrate longer-term adaptation within efforts to build anticipatory or absorptive outcomes may be a feasible pathway to mitigate trade-offs between achieving short- and long-term goals, rather than treating adaptive capacity as a third isolated outcome.

 

There are emerging signs of transformational change that, although largely limited to the local level, are most clearly illustrated by catalytic impacts – expanding project activities beyond their geographical extent and the direct sphere of the project’s influence. However, beyond this outcome, it is too early to judge the sustainability and scalability to replicate project approaches beyond the local level within three years.

How has BRACED addressed the challenge? It is extremely important to revisit assumptions about the theory of change (TOC) or programme logic that are associated with interventions having an effect in the lifetime of the project. Implementation delays and changes can mean that these assumptions may not hold true. The project logic or theory should be revisited at least annually, or preferably more frequently.  At the project level, projects are encouraged to reflect on their TOCs each year in their annual qualitative reporting, highlighting where assumptions have held true or been challenged. At the programme level, the BRACED TOC has been revisited and revised for the BRACED extension year, to reflect programme-level learning as well as the focus of the extension. The extension has an increased focus on policy influence as well as allowing more time to improve the sustainability of outcomes from the BRACED programme. Programme-level questions that have remained unanswered during BRACED, as well as new assumptions raised by the BRACED extension, will be tested in more depth during the extension period.

It is important to consider not only the amount of time between baseline and endline in order to detect change, but also at what time of year (the month or season) data is collected. For many of the BRACED countries, recurrent annual drought and heavy rains are a part of life and often lead to times of hardship and abundance, respectively. While these periods are becoming increasingly difficult to predict, owing to the already present effects of climate change, some effort should be made to align the timing of data collection to avoid introducing a source of potential bias. For example, if the baseline survey is conducted at the end of the dry season when agricultural communities are reliant on the remaining surplus, this may indicate lower levels of resilience. If the endline survey is conducted towards the end of the rainy season or start of the dry season around harvest time, respondents may report higher levels of food security.

In practice it may not always be possible to collect data at the same time of the year. Therefore, any differences should be highlighted as possible influencing or confounding factors when presenting results.

The complexity challenge and how BRACED has approached this

As stated at the start of this report, people and communities are not resilient or non-resilient: they may face a variety of shocks and stresses and be more or less resilient to each one. How suitable, therefore, is a simple count of the number of people who have had their resilience built as an indicator for assessing resilience?6 Projects use different approaches to measure resilience, and programme-level evaluation experience suggests that numbers of people cannot be the only indicator used.10
This is further complicated by the fact that there was no “turnkey” methodology at the start of the programme, so individual projects have developed and used different methods and indicators to measure the resilience-building outcomes of particular activities. This has led to the use of multidimensional composite indices or “scorecards” with constituent indicators that reflect the project-specific capacities that are being built. Examples are given in the paper Laying the foundations for measuring resilience.
If simple indicators are not sufficient, how complex does monitoring and evaluation for resilience need to be? Complexity drives issues of resourcing, both on the evaluator side and, just as crucially, on the project partner side.11
The more complex the evaluation system, the more time and funding are required. Different ways to measure and evaluate resilience building each come with their own trade-off in terms of flexibility and resourcing.12

How has BRACED addressed the challenge?The contexts in which the BRACED projects are operating differ socio-politically and in terms of institutions, climate and culture. However, many have in common climate risks and hazards and the vulnerability of their citizens to increasing uncertainty, long-term stress and sudden-onset idiosyncratic (localised) and co-variate (widespread) shocks. While the nature of the projects and the contexts in which they are operating varies, there are similarities in terms of intervention typology.

By using the “3As + Transformation” framework developed under BRACED (Bahadur et al 2015) we are able to make some useful comparisons across projects. From the BRACED impact evaluations, we have been able to present country-level findings based on rigorously collected and analysed data, and we have been able to draw some compelling conclusions and lessons from each country context. However, the methods used to reach these conclusions do not lend themselves well to broader generalisations. We must also be cautious in drawing collective conclusions based on country-level evidence. 13

Given the expenditure, it is above all important that monitoring and evaluation be useful, going beyond accountability-driven exercises towards learning-based approaches. This usefulness ideally extends beyond the practitioners, supporting engagement of local communities and using participatory evaluation approaches.

At the local level, resilience building is not seen as a one-shot investment, but rather as a continuous process. People have valuable knowledge of what works and doesn’t work to help them build their resilience. Conventional cost/benefit assessments can miss both of these factors. DCF is therefore seeking alternative methods that also consider the value of natural resources, and how this might increase through better management.

The BRACED Knowledge Manager is also piloting a participatory approach to assessing costs and benefits, working with the Myanmar Alliance project.

Participatory cost/benefit analysis: experience in Myanmar

In Myanmar, a participatory approach for assessing costs and benefits associated with resilience-building activities has been trialled as part of an impact evaluation in Mawlamyine township, the fourth largest city in Myanmar, 300km south-east of Yangon. The main climate shock is flooding, and over time vulnerability to shocks has increased as poorer working people have moved into the township. Unable to afford established areas, they live in bamboo huts in flood-prone areas. Mawlamyine was one of the townships hit by cyclone Nargis in 2008. Dry-season fires started in wooden homes have occasionally become widespread. The BRACED Myanmar Alliance project uses community action planning to identify resilience interventions and coordinate with local government. Interventions have included dredging drainage channels and other flood-prevention activities, supporting a local fire service by digging ponds and providing pumps, and microfinance to support income-generating activities.

The approach to cost/benefit analysis uses a mix of participatory and economic modelling techniques. Participatory methods (group and key informant discussions) are used to understand changes that have occurred and to generate evidence that can be checked against other sources. This is combined with formal economic modelling that draws on studies from other countries in the region, for example on the value of a statistical life, disaster risks and the public health costs of dengue fever. Using identified costs and benefits from the past two years, estimates are then made on likely costs and benefits over the next eight years. The value is then expressed in the prices at the start of the project, discounting at a standard 12% which is used to compare costs and benefits that occur in different time periods i.e. at the start of project versus in 8 years’ time.

Benefits were found to be significantly greater than costs. The net present value of the interventions is £206,000, with benefits 4.3 times greater than costs using the most conservative assumptions. Flood-channel dredging (undertaken with community labour, government machinery and project funding for fuel) has produced the single largest benefit. The second largest type of benefit has been the returns on microfinance (small loans) provided by the project.

Collective learning

Effective learning is critical for resilience programs. A range of approaches is needed to accommodate different learning styles and priorities, and the timing of learning activities is crucial. Flexibility to accommodate serendipitous learning – including budget and incentive structures for doing so – can enable project teams to discover valuable new knowledge and connections. When exploring different learning approaches, it is important to be clear about the purpose and intended impact, whether it is critical reflection to inform decision-making or exchanging ideas to improve project delivery.

Within a programme such as BRACED, learning from one another offers tremendous opportunities, but also requires care, as expectations and interests differ widely from project to project and context to context. Identifying and offering the right incentives for collective learning is vital, as well as offering a suitable range of approaches.

A range of approaches to support different learning styles and priorities

The BRACED Knowledge Manager has tested a variety of approaches to facilitate sharing of expertise and experience across and beyond the programme, including digital and face-to-face approaches, as well as traditional and out-of-the-box ones. These have had varying degrees of success. A dedicated Learning & Uptake team within the Knowledge Manager has led on offering the approaches, reflecting on the experiences and tailoring them further to fit the needs.

Face-to-face learning activities

Face-to-face events have included Annual Learning Events; writeshops; informal “Lunch & Learn” meetings; and “bolt-on” events that have often been informal in nature and have taken place at forums where a critical mass of BRACED partners was already in attendance (for example, a breakfast meeting between partners and Knowledge Manager representatives at the 10th Annual Community Based Adaptation Conference was convened to share stories and updates on latest activities, plans and insights). Proven experimental methodologies of our more innovative approaches to knowledge-sharing (learning marketplaces, serious games, Forum Theatre, and solutions-focused reflection sessions also known as “Doctor-Patient clinics”) have been documented in Knowledge Manager Learning Factsheets so that others within and beyond the programme may adopt and adapt these for their needs.

One of the face-to-face engagements format were “writeshops”, a way of co-creating a publication using a set methodology. A Writeshop offers space for technical experts to gather for an intense few days to present drafts of their work, receive feedback from their peers, iterate further and ultimately produce polished, publishable material that enjoys ownership by all.

The first BRACED writeshop focused on the theme of gender; a second one (conducted in French) focused on technology and innovation. On both occasions all participants evaluated the writeshop as useful to their work, in line with the overriding feedback the Knowledge Manager has received on the importance of having face-to-face meetings to accelerate knowledge-sharing and learning. After experimenting with the writeshop methodology during years 1 and 2, the two writeshops in year 3 have been entirely demand-based. For example, one was a follow-up to one of the earlier workshops, gathering some of the same individuals from BRACED projects to deepen their reflection and document more lessons learned.

Digital learning activities

Digital means of connecting have included Knowledge Manager-facilitated webinars and online discussion forums, as well as internal and external newsletters. To date, over 50 webinars and online discussions have taken place in English and in French on topics ranging from “How to pitch BRACED stories to the media” to “Unlocking the potential of Africa’s livestock systems for climate-resilient economic development” and “Community Theatre – How does it work?” It is interesting to note that while webinars on resilience existed prior to the BRACED programme, they were used in a somewhat limited fashion to connect producers and users of knowledge and foster connections across large-scale programmes working on climate change and resilience. Within BRACED, the Knowledge Manager originally only offered discussion forums, as these enabled users with low bandwidth to connect and contribute to an online conversation. While both discussion forums and webinars have their place, today webinars are much more common within the programme.

OUT-OF-THE-BOX APPROACHES

Our brains use shortcuts to help us make decisions. Sometimes called “cognitive biases”, these shortcuts are essential for making quick decisions, such as deciding to swerve to avoid a car accident. However, these automatic judgements can also lead to bad decision-making when we rely too heavily on intuition and use defective reasoning. The Knowledge Manager recently launched an infographic series1 explaining five common shortcuts in climate risk management, how they play a role in decision-making, and strategies to outsmart our tendency to use shortcuts. The infographics were shared at the Adaptation Futures conference as part of a “masterclass” on communicating adaptation research.

Some lessons on learning

1. Organisational governance and power dynamics, language, technology, and cultural barriers can all challenge collective learning.

Much time was initially spent learning about particular power dynamics and governance structures within the programme, grappling with very practical language, technology and cultural barriers, and testing solutions to address these. While the shared aim among all is to learn about what it takes to build resilience, it is important to examine assumptions about collaborative mindsets, a common understanding of learning styles and preferences, and proclivity to share experiences, including lessons learned from failure. As a result, explorative work focusing on “Learning in Consortia” has been introduced, with the objective of unpacking some of these assumptions and analysing what approaches work best to incentivise collective learning in large-scale resilience programmes.

The use of technology to communicate between geographically distant BRACED team members also proved to be challenging at times. The low internet bandwidth experienced by some team members, especially those based in remote locations, limited the interactions and engagement in joint learning activities for some team members.

2. It is important to retain flexibility in the programme of learning activities, actively seeking feedback to inform adjustments.

Iterative learning: adjusting activities based on feedback

Active learning and reflection marked the trajectory of the annual learning and reflection gatherings of all partners. Each of the three BRACED Annual Learning Events to date has been modified based on participant feedback and internal Knowledge Manager reflection on the programme’s substance, target audience and accompanying planning process. For example, the first Annual Learning Event was designed by the Knowledge Manager for all direct BRACED partners (implementing partners, Knowledge Manager, fund manager and DFID representatives). The objective was to get to know one another and plan jointly. The second event incorporated feedback received from the previous year, and while it was again principally planned by the Knowledge Manager, it was now open to external partners for one day. For the third event, the full three-day programme was open to BRACED and external partners, based on preferences expressed to broaden the conversation and focus on deepening connections with practitioners working beyond the BRACED programme. In light of feedback from the previous Annual Learning Event, the Knowledge Manager broadened the planning process to include a steering group with representatives of Knowledge Manager research, monitoring and evaluation, learning and communications leads, regional partners, the BRACED partner hosting the event, and the Fund Manager. This boosted ownership and ensured the programme addressed needs and perspectives of the various groups attending the event. The programme thus allowed for a diverse range of cross-cutting sessions hosted by various partners.

3. Support for serendipitous learning is essential

It is important to invest early on in identifying and addressing incentives and barriers to engaging in collective learning. At the same time, a budget should be set aside to accommodate new or unexpected opportunities for learning and collaboration, which are otherwise likely to take a back seat to traditional output-focused tasks. The ability to acknowledge and participate in unplanned events or collaborations, and engage with accidentally discovered or even less-structured information sources, can lead to highly beneficial learning. Accommodating serendipitous learning can lead to new connections, different perspectives and newfound inspiration.

To this end, in the third year of BRACED, a small “Collaboration Grant” was created for partners to access up to £5,000 to support emerging yet unforeseen opportunities between partners to exchange knowledge, foster synergistic learning, or create joint products. The grant enabled project teams to discover valuable new connections, knowledge and know-how that was not built into annual work plans and log-frames. Key examples of where funding helped projects to learn from one another include through facilitating cross-project visits and events which helped to foster cross-project learning and establish or strengthen intra-project relationships, which encouraged the continuation of shared learning. Three grants were awarded, and feedback from the BRACED implementing partner survey showed that all implementing partner recipients found the Collaboration Grant to be a useful cross-programme learning tool.

  1. The Collaboration Grant was first taken up by the two Asia projects, Anukulan and the Myanmar Alliance, for two learning exchange visits to enable implementing partner staff to learn from each other and identify opportunities for replicating good practice. Some of the Anukulan team visited the Myanmar Alliance project in August 2017. Staff exchanged presentations and discussions on their activities and visited four BRACED project sites to view the Myanmar Alliance approach towards climate-smart technologies, climate-resilient agriculture, comprehensive resilience assessment and Local Adaptation Plans of Action (LAPAs). Following the same format, in September 2017 a small contingent of the Myanmar Alliance team visited the Anukulan project team in Nepal.
  2. The second Collaboration Grant was awarded to the SUR1M and PRESENCES projects in Niger, for a learning workshop in Niamey in November 2017. Both projects operate in the Tillabéry region of Niger but have worked in different communities. The two projects put in place technological solutions and best-practice approaches to resilience-building and used the workshop as an opportunity to exchange knowledge and learning, specifically to identify which similar approaches the projects were taking and how they could complement each other. The workshop had 25 participants and focused on learning around early-warning systems and the use of climate information; savings and internal credit groups; and natural resources management.
  3. The third Collaboration Grant was awarded to the SUR1M, DCF and RIC4REC projects in Mali to expand the Knowledge Management’s planned October 2017 Agora workshop into a two-day event and develop a video documentary. Over 70 participants heard presentations from a range of contributors on the lessons, opportunities and challenges of applying resilience frameworks. The event concluded with a series of recommendations to be presented to the Government of Mali, one of which was for a capacity-building workshop on resilience frameworks.

The success of the Collaboration Grant in identifying and addressing incentives and barriers to engaging in collective learning processes enabled implementing partners to accommodate new or unexpected opportunities for learning and collaboration, which were otherwise likely to take a back seat to traditional output-focused tasks.