Introduction to collaborating, learning and adapting (CLA) in the program cycle

This free, one-hour online course by USAID gives an introduction to the Collaboration, Learning, Adapting (CLA) approach.

Course objectives include: understanding how collaborating, learning and adapting can help you achieve development outcomes more effectively; practising applying practical CLA approaches; learning where to find available CLA tools and resources.

This resource and the following information was contributed by Alice Macfarlan.

Authors and their affiliation

USAID Learning Lab

Key features

This is a free, online course. It's very short (the estimated time to complete is one hour) and walks participants through the key components of the CLA framework as well as presents a number of 'scenarios' (set in the fictional region of East Tambou) which allows users to actively consider how they might apply CLA principles in practice.

How have you used or intend on using this resource?

I've spent a bit of time reading about CLA on the USAID website and diving into some of the overviews, cases and tools that USAID Learning has shared. This course, however, provides a bit more of a holistic overview that would have been very helpful when I started, but even now I find the exercises useful to test my understanding of CLA.

Why would you recommend it to other people?

CLA is one approach to managing complex developmental situations and programs adaptively. I find the integrated CLA framework that USAID has developed very useful for thinking through the different aspects that are important in managing adaptively, and there is a large, growing body of guidance and evidence on the USAID website to help practitioners and managers integrate CLA into their work. This course is a great addition to that evidence-base, as it provides an easy to follow, entry-level overview that will likely help users navigate the resources available with a solid grounding. 

While the primary audience for this course is USAID staff and partners and a small portion of the information is not relevant to a wider audience (such as information about USAID requirements for using CLA), the bulk of the content can be used by others who are wanting guidance on how to integrate and apply CLA practices in their own work. In particular, the course lays out key questions to consider when planning a CLA approach and provides opportunities to think through scenarios of using CLA that I found very useful. The six scenarios provide a valuable active learning opportunity for participants to think through different applications of CLA in practice.


USAID (2019) Introduction to Collaborating, Learning and Adapting (CLA) in the Program Cycle [online course]. Retrieved from: