Panagora Pilots First Country-Led CLA Awards Program in the Philippines

Oct. 14, 2021

Since early 2018, Panagora Group has been implementing the CLAimHealth task order, which helps the USAID/Philippines Office of Health get the greatest return possible on its sizeable investment in more than ten large multi-year activities that comprise its health portfolio in the Philippines. Panagora’s team of technical experts and support staff, composed of 16 Filipinos and one locally hired expat, help USAID achieve its health objectives in the Philippines with high-quality monitoring and evaluation data, continuous learning, and adaptive management.

To help surface best practices among the Mission’s health partners, this year Panagora’s CLAimHealth team helped launch the Mission’s first CLA Awards competition -- which also appears to be the first ever country-led CLA Award competition. CLA stands for collaborating, learning and adapting and it’s all about improving development effectiveness. The Office of Health’s CLA Awards benefited from four years of CLAimHealth’s robust activities to raise awareness and build capacity on ways USAID and implementing partners can integrate CLA into USAID/Philippines’ large health portfolio. The competition stimulated the capture of local approaches to improve programming through CLA and served as a barometer of the degree to which CLA culture and practices have been internalized.

Chief of Party, Dr. Mary Ann Lansang, believes awards and recognition contribute greatly to popularizing and strengthening CLA culture across USAID/Philippines’ health activities. She noted, “When we conduct case competitions, we are both recognizing and rewarding desired practices and we are affirming the skills involved in capturing and sharing these practices via articulate case documentation.”

CLA Case Submissions Illustrate Impact of Adaptive Management 

USAID was proud to receive seven entries from its implementing partners. A multi-stakeholder panel of judges selected finalists and a winner in April 2021. USAID's ReachHealth project won the first USAID/Philippines with the submission “Improving the Referral System of Health Facilities in Batangas.” The winning case clearly articulates their CLA approach and described how the methods contributed to an improved health referral system to connect women and families to critical care. Their approach resulted in an increase in healthcare referrals from 28 percent to almost 99 percent over four years, which means more Filipinos are getting access to life-saving and preventative care. 

The USAID/Philippines OH and the CLAimHealth team look forward to future iterations of the CLA Awards and continuing to share successes in continuous learning and adaptive management. The second CLA Awards competition will be launched this October. USAID/Philippines OH Director Michelle Lang-Alli said, “Our intention with the CLA Awards is not just an event that repeats itself each year. Rather, we see it also as an element in a process of continuous improvement to achieving results that contribute to our growth and efficiency as a community that’s innovative and adaptive in implementing the Health Project.”

Top five tips for Implementing Partners interested in replicating CLA Awards

While we are still learning from this exercise, our top lessons learned for others interested in replicating CLA awards in other countries are: 

  1. Secure buy-in from USAID. Create a shared vision with USAID on the goals of the CLA case competition and how it supports USAID’s objectives. Half the panel of judges came from USAID, while the other half from our roster of CLA Champions—a group of eminent health professionals which support all CLAimHealth activities as part of a multi-stakeholder CLA Working Group. Their prominence as academics, former secretaries of health, and the like, strengthens the profile of activities we host for USAID. Our key home office CLA expert also served on the panel. 
  2. Clearly communicate information. Our team prepared a comprehensive digital leaflet and disseminated it via the USAID OH’s Knowledge Library, a knowledge portal for USAID and IPs, with “e-cards” to remind partners of key dates.
  3. Help partners with their learning curve. Like us, many will be preparing CLA case entries for the first time. To prepare IPs for the competition and encourage participation, we invested in a learning session in December 2020, which provided resources and examples to build confidence among partners.
  4. Devise a way to track participation. All the entries for the CLA Awards were submitted on the final day before the deadline. As a result, we were unsure until the last moment on the number of entries. Requiring registration to join the contest would have been a simple way of estimating returns and preparing for next steps.
  5. Develop a visibility package for the winner. Visibility and prestige are the main prizes for CLA case competitions participants. For these CLA Awards, our team worked with the Office of Health for commitments to publish CLA Awards content over their different visibility channels. Then, we produced the content for USAID and submitted the package for publication. One challenge to anticipate is that your activity may not be able to guarantee a publication schedule once materials have been handed over to the client, as even the Office of Health has to follow a content schedule from USAID’s digital and social media managers.

Summary of learnings

The USAID/Philippines Office of Health and CLAimHealth team took a risk by replicating USAID’s CLA Case Competition locally. However, as a learning team, we all reflected on lessons we can carry forward into the next CLA Awards competition. USAID/Philippines is continuing the CLA Awards, and the next round will launch in late October 2021. They will keep innovating on the parameters of the competition as a way of moving the needle ever closer to reaching its objectives of improving the health of all Filipinos. 

You can read Panagora’s post in USAID’s Learning Lab “Lab Notes” blog on their experience supporting USAID/Philippines to implement the first-ever CLA Awards in the Philippines.