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A study on the Learning Alliance Approach in Ghana, commissioned by IRC under the Triple-S project has concluded that the Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector in Ghana is very vibrant in experience sharing, documentation and dissemination, but recommended institutionalising a guiding model for a more systematic process of building up and deploying knowledge for policy, programming, and practice.
The theory of change underpinning Triple-S is that when learning throughout the rural water sub-sector is strengthened, concepts, policies and best practices in sustainable service delivery would be promoted through strategic partnerships and learning platforms. In pursuit of this, the project has applied a Learning Alliance approach, using learning platforms as the main vehicle for promoting sector learning.
In Ghana, IRC has already been supporting the existing learning platform at the national level for the WASH sector for several years. Triple-S has strengthened and worked with this platform. In addition, the project has initiated the establishment of regional alliances and district learning alliance platforms, involved in the action research and pilots: Gonja East in the Northern region; Sunyani West in the Brong Ahafo region; and Akatsi in the Volta region.
Using an adapted version of Kolb's learning cycle and the learning loops developed by Argyris and Senge, the study shows that the sector is strong when it comes to the first step in the learning cycle – sharing, documentation, dissemination and validation of innovations; but considerably weaker in the second and third learning steps – tracking trends, interrogating patterns and posing research questions and exploring answers systematically in ways that lead to challenging or changing the assumptions in service delivery and governance.
On the effectiveness of the approach in Ghana, the report indicated that learning platforms have been instrumental in shaping the sector agenda including policy, strategy and programme formulation and reviews; development of a service delivery approach and the governance architecture and processes; development of guidelines, standards, regulatory framework and manuals; sector financing and the choice of technology issues. Furthermore, according to the report the approach has contributed to shaping joint action as the design of some new programmes reflect agreed delivery approach and standards; and that the platforms are also used to critique non-conforming, unapproved approaches and technologies.
The report acknowledged that the WASH sector has great potential to improve learning and adaptive capacity and recommended:
- adopting an agreed learning framework to guide the facilitation and management of learning,
- creating an institutional structure that would promote systematic learning in the sector,
- developing a business case for knowledge management as a basis to justify the financial and economic returns on learning, and
- using these insights to promote and market learning as a worthwhile undertaking in the sector.
The purpose of the study, undertaken by Nkum Associates was to establish the significance of the learning alliance approach in influencing learning and adaptive capacity in Ghana's rural water sector. It was also meant to assess the efficacy and sustainability of the learning alliance platforms as vehicles for sector learning at all levels.
The study report maps out the current learning platforms and the missing links. It defines and classifies the numerous learning spaces, identifies the main factors that drive and/or inhibit stakeholder participation in learning platforms, addresses the issues of ownership and financial sustainability of the platforms, and their relative efficacy and influence in promoting learning and adaptive capacity in the sector.
Get your copy of the full study report below.