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An engine that drives change

Learning is a critical component in the change process: diagnosing the weaknesses in the WASH service delivery system, developing and testing solutions and scaling up successes. When we speak about learning in this context we are not referring to building capacity of individual actors or institutions, but rather sector learning – platforms and processes that enable joint learning across institutions and levels. Sector learning goes hand in hand with adaptive management, a structured process of translating learning into action.

Having a dedicated body – a hub or backbone organisation – to facilitate sector learning and support informed policy development ensures a more effective change process and increases the ability of the sector to continue to improve and adapt to changing conditions.

Suggested priorities include:

  • Building learning and adaptive practices into the annual planning cycle
  • Developing a national learning framework and dedicating ongoing funding to implement
  • Establishing robust sector learning platforms; i.e. ones not dependent on donor funding for continued operation

Tools & guidance

IRC's tools on learning provide guidance on establishing processes of analysis and reflection and setting up and facilitating learning platforms at national, regional and district levels. They are based on IRC's experience in establishing multi-stakeholder "learning alliances" - platforms to improve collaboration, research uptake, and scaling-up of successful innovations - and WASH resource centres, which facilitate learning and networking among sector stakeholders; and projects such as EMPOWERS and Triple-S, which introduced formal mechanisms for reflection and learning into change processes.

The EMPOWERS approach provides guidance on participatory learning and action (pp. 63 - 75) and process documentation (p. 130).

Documenting change, provides an introduction to process documentation and offers tools for collecting and presenting observations that stimulate reflection, learning and sharing. It shows how process documentation can promote learning and action through joint reflection and analysis.


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