Jul 8, 2019

Challenge Accepted: What We Learned at the CIF-GDI Learning Event

Jacob Bathanti , Consultant
CIF-GDI Event Attendees Participate in a Group Photo

Climate change is one of the greatest development challenges facing the world today, and figuring out mechanisms to build resilience and catalyze a shift to cleaner energy is an urgent need. Learning from one another, across the development sphere and across the world, is therefore indispensable. But how can we make sure that this crucial learning happens?

On June 6-7, the Global Delivery Initiative and the Climate Investments Funds (CIF) convened a learning event. The event built on a collaboration between CIF and GDI on a case study series about how practitioners faced and overcame delivery challenges – non-technical, sometimes unexpected, obstacles to implementation – in climate projects. This partnership leverages unique comparative advantages: GDI’s focus on delivery challenges, methodologies for documenting them, and the adaptive approaches that can help overcome them complemented CIF’s status as the world’s largest multilateral climate finance instrument and extensive experience in this arena

Close to 200 practitioners and development professionals came together to talk about how implementers working on a range of climate projects are addressing challenges, how they are grappling with crucial cross-cutting issues like gender, and about concrete actions that can drive progress forward – from the global level to individual projects. We noticed (at least) three big takeaways.

One big development challenge – many delivery challenges. The centerpiece of the learning event was the presentation of a series of case studies on climate interventions. These case studies examined how programs addressing a major development challenge – climate change – overcame critical delivery challenges. From building climate resilience in Zambia to financing clean cookstoves in Honduras and wind power in Thailand, this varied collection of cases delved deep into how practitioners overcame concrete challenges, like stakeholder coordination and capacity issues, to achieve progress in building climate resilience and promoting clean energy. Development practitioners can learn from the commonalities across these cases, while also appreciating the diversity of approaches on view (and we encourage you to check out all the case studies here).

You don’t have to do it alone (more Delivery Labs, please!) One of GDI’s newest offerings, Delivery Labs create a space for teams to present problems their projects are facing, crowd-sourcing ideas for solutions from a small group of peers. In a series of delivery labs at the Learning Event, a diverse group of experienced practitioners shared insights and co-created actionable solutions drawing on the assembled brainpower of the event to help teams make real progress. I watched experts from diverse institutions and from all over the world pitch in with experiences, research, and suggestions to help tackle challenges facing a forestry project in Latin America. And I watched conference attendees in delivery labs talk candidly about their own experiences and how their learning at the conference could help them tackle their own delivery challenges. These small gatherings clearly had participants both thinking in new ways about how to tackle challenges, and feeling supported by a network of peers and colleagues – exactly what delivery labs are all about.

Are learning events better than conferences? One thing that was quite clear over the two-day event was the hunger among participants to engage with one another to seek and exchange ideas, experiences, and insights. The CIF-GDI event mixed panel sessions with breakouts that used case studies to examine specific projects, as well as Delivery Labs. By mixing inspiring high-level panels with practical, roll-up-your-sleeves exercises, the event kept energy levels high and helped teams make real progress in addressing critical delivery challenges. Participants themselves highlighted this blend of "inspiration with perspiration" to enable future progress (and you can hear from them here): 

CIF and GDI will continue working together to produce provocative and instructive case studies, and to share lessons about delivery challenges in climate action. In the meantime, do check out the case study series. Additional conference materials, including videos of plenary and panel sessions, are available here. And if you are interested in participating in a delivery lab, reach out to Sruti Bandyopadhyay at sbandyopadhyay2@worldbank.org.