Jan 11, 2019

Why I'm Excited about GDI's Learning Program

Verena Knippel , Senior Advisor Capacity Development, Sida

When I, at 16, first visited our partner school in Tanzania, I decided to study and work with international development, as things were obviously not fair, and somebody had to do something about that. Well, it turned out it wasn’t that easy. But I tried, and I still do - which is why I am so happy that we have recently joined the Global Delivery Initiative.

Who we are: The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), where I have been working for most of the last decade and a bit. Sida is a government agency working on behalf of the Swedish parliament and government, with the mission to reduce poverty in the world. We carry out development cooperation with 35 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. All our work should be performed in a cost-effective way with a strong focus on results. Sida has more than 700 employees, located in three offices in Sweden as well as in our cooperation countries. Sweden spends 1% of its GNP on international development, but on a global scale, we are a small donor with high ambitions and a vision to work towards “every person’s right and opportunity to live a decent life”.   

The last year and a half I have been with Sida’s Department of Management Support, working with capacity development and with optimizing our project management in order to create space for better implementation. When I came across the GDI, I immediately knew that it would complement our efforts in an ideal way. And as soon as I popped my head into the meeting room at the World Bank, I knew this was going to be good: a bunch of talented people from all over the world coming together to discuss how to best learn from operations to address delivery challenges.

Why delivery challenges? Because things never go according to plan. All the efforts to improve project plans and appraisals have only gotten us this far, and even with a lot of careful planning there are still projects that don’t live up to expectations. So, we want to focus on implementation, on understanding what gets in the way along the way and how we can course correct to still get where we set out to go. It’s time we get good at doing the last mile, at delivering the best possible results.

And the meeting of GDI’s Learning Programme Working Group made me optimistic: we are getting better at this. GDI presented the first encouraging experiences from the African pilots of the Learning Approach, which follows the GDI principles: adaptive implementation, multi-dimensional response, focus on delivery challenges and attention to context. Participants shared many different initiatives that were working in problem-driven, iterative, learning-oriented, multi-disciplinary ways and produced new hybrid, context-adjusted solutions. We also found common threads, discussed how to expand organizational space for adaptive implementation and brain-stormed around an interactive course on adaptive delivery we could develop together. So, I look forward to continuing the discussion at the GDI/DDD Conference in Berlin in January!