Leading and Learning
Navigating the Next Leg of the Journey
In the first few modules of this Guide, the focus was on understanding adaptation and how to prioritize activities for scale up. In addition to these important responsibilities, the National Coordination Mechanism also provides leadership in ending violence against children on behalf of the government, especially in its interaction with Implementing Partners. Another key role the National Coordination Mechanism plays is to help document what is being learned and how that learning advances the action plan to end violence against children.
Of course, as primarily a coordinating body, the National Coordination Mechanism does not manage adaptation and scale up. Instead, its coordinating responsibilities include:
- Ensuring that Implementing Partners understand the core principles of each evidence-based intervention to safeguard fidelity.
- Assisting in partners’ efforts to strengthen adaptive capacity and apply adaptive management techniques that permit real-time program modifications based on inputs from frontline staff and stakeholders.
- Supporting and advising partners in documenting the adaptation and scale-up processes.
With many key decisions about activities and scale up already made, at this point, we are ready to focus on these ways to lead and learn.
Coordinating Implementing Partners
Core and Peripheral Elements of an Activity
A topic we return to frequently in this Guide is the issue of fidelity, or scaling up model activities without losing the core elements (resources, services, staffing, training, technologies, etc.) that have been tested and shown as key to achieving results. When adapting activities, we need to ensure that they remain faithful to the principles that make the activity effective. Good adaptation depends on identifying and retaining core elements: those which cannot be easily substituted or deleted without changing the nature of the activity.
Peripheral elements, again, are those that are more easy to adapt from context to context. They have not been shown to be critical to the activity. They are often elements that may be helpful—and even important—for local reasons, but can be easily substituted or dropped when the activity is adapted to new sites.
To ensure fidelity to the core elements of an activity to end violence against children, it is first necessary to identify those elements and ask, “why is this element core?” The National Coordination Mechanism can help Implementing Partners understand the principles underlying a core element so they can adapt to the local context. Remember that while core elements from the model site must be present in target sites, they may take different shapes in different contexts while meeting the same goals.
Like the Context of Implementation Analysis tool, Tool 4A is designed to help Implementing Partners and the National Coordination Mechanism + Resource Team determine which elements are core, and which are peripheral. This allows them to focus more directly on the core elements, making sure they are present, monitored, and sustained.
Using Adaptive Management
As we know, cross-sectoral issues such as violence against children operate in complex systems, and complexity requires adaptation. With the increasing attention to the general subject of adaptation, perhaps the topic that has gotten the most consideration is “adaptive management.”
A style of activity management that emphasizes continuous collection of information to flag needed improvements and facilitate adaptation.
A key aspect of adaptive management is collecting information regularly and frequently about how an activity is being implemented. This information gathered is sometimes called “real-time data.” Adaptive managers use the data to assess activity areas that need improvement, make those improvements, then monitor them to see how well they are working. In contrast, in traditional management practices, targets for outputs are set and monitored on a quarterly or biannual basis.
Adaptive managers recognize that as circumstances change, and as we learn more about the environment, activities to end violence against children will need to be modified to fit new realities. This is why adaptive management makes activities more responsive to change—and more sustainable.
Adaptive managers recognize that as circumstances change, and as we learn more about the environment, activities to end violence against children will need to be modified to fit new realities.
Because adaptive management is a popular topic in the fields of health and development, there are many tools to help organizations manage in an adaptive manner. Although the National Coordination Mechanism does not directly manage activities to end violence against children, it can encourage Implementing Partners to adapt and scale up their activities using adaptive management tools and techniques. Tool 4B introduces a simple four-step adaptive-management cycle that almost all Implementing Partners can follow with guidance from the National Coordination Mechanism + Resource Team.
Use of such a tool will help partners anticipate problems before they get too serious. It will also give them a chance to document how well they respond to shifting needs and share that information with the National Coordination Mechanism. The National Coordination Mechanism + Resource Team can use that information to monitor the successes and challenges of scale up and contribute to a broader knowledge set across sectors.
The National Coordination Mechanism + Resource Team can also practice adaptive management themselves. Most tools in this guide ask you to monitor how well your strategy for adaptation and scale up is working. They ask you to identify challenges, and consider what can be done to address those challenges. Typically, these tools ask you to think, then to take action and monitor that action. So you see, the basic principles of adaptive management are easy to follow and very helpful.
Implementing Partners should keep track of adaptations so the National Coordination Mechanism + Resource Team can better monitor activities, help partners address challenges, and document learning that will appeal to funders. This learning will also help future Implementing Partners scale up the activity more quickly and easily. Although some people think a program should be delivered exactly as planned, this rarely happens. Documenting adaptations is important for learning about the environment for implementation and to improve future scale-up efforts. This learning is also very valuable to share with other stakeholders as part of advocacy.
Tool 4C is designed to facilitate these important aspects of documenting learning:
- Discussing, reflecting on, and documenting scale-up progress;
- Identifying key lessons and adaptations;
- Showing that activities are able to be sustained with fidelity even as conditions shift over time.
Using this tool on a regular basis is important to document learning. Of course, for Implementing Partners, it is not a substitute for project management meetings, reporting, or other forms of monitoring and evaluation. When shared with the National Coordination Mechanism + Resource Team, documentation like that provided by the “Documenting Learning Worksheet,” in Tool 4C provides an excellent source of information about the quality of their adaptive management, as well as their ability to keep activities on-track and responsive to a changing environment.
4ACore and Peripheral Elements of a Violence Against Children Prevention Activity
4BUsing Adaptive Management
R1 Insights and Action
Pause and Reflect.
The National Coordination Mechanism’s role continues to be important after activities to end violence against children have been selected, and systems to set and monitor benchmarks have been put into place. A key responsibility is to provide leadership to Implementing Partners in two areas: defining the core elements of activities, and introducing and encouraging adaptive-management techniques.
Questions for consideration….
- If monitoring suggests that an Implementing Partner is failing to ensure that all core elements are included in their activities, has the National Coordination Mechanism considered a way to address the situation?
- Does the National Coordination Mechanism + Resource Team feel they know enough about the basic principles of adaptive management to encourage and support Implementing Partners in making their management more adaptive? If not, how can they learn more?
- What lessons has the National Coordination Mechanism learned about the kinds of adaptations that make successful implementation of activities more likely?
When discussing your reflections on this module, did the team have any interesting insights?
It is important to document your learning and the actions you will take, then check back to note when those actions have been completed.
Additional Resources on Leading and Learning
Blase, K. & Fixsen. (2013). Core Intervention Components: Identifying and Operationalizing What Makes Programs Work. ASPE Research Brief. February. Washington DC.
Chu, J. & Leino, A. (2017). Advancement in the Maturing Science of Cultural Adaptations of Evidence-Based Interventions. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, vol 85(1), 45-57.
Cooley L., Ved R., Fehlenberg K. (2012). Scaling Up—From Vision to Large Scale Change: Tools and Techniques for Practitioners. Management Systems International (MSI). Washington DC.