Sunday, December 7, 2008

What is Learning Alliance?

Learning Alliance are series of connected stakeholder platforms, created at key institutional levels (typically national, intermediate and local/community) and designed to break down barriers to both horizontal and vertical information sharing. Each platform is intended to group together a range of partners with complementary capabilities in such areas as implementation, regulation, policy and legislation, research and learning and documentation and dissemination.

Learning Alliance approach has arisen from the sense of frustration over the evident failure of much relevant and effective innovation-technological or institutional-to move beyond the pilot stage. Following reasons like -

·         Innovation that takes place in an environment that does not reflect the realities of country or region concerned. It is not productive to ignore or circumvent in built barriers to progress in order to have a successful pilot.

·         Pilot projects that are implemented by large well equipped project teams working intensively with communities. It is not realistic to expect successful scaling up from such a base is similar resources and personnel with similar skills are ot available.

·         Innovation and knowledge creation is not consolidated and built into a structured system. In such cases dissemination happens towards the end of the process when it is too late for meaningful transfer.

·         Failure to create national or even local ownership of activities that can happen when project teams work in isolation.

Learning alliance approach is intended to overcome these problems by systematically addressing the issues surrounding going to scale as part of the same process as undertaken by the innovation. It aims to do this by-

·         Carrying out innovation and learning within an alliance of practitioners, research, policy makers and activists.

·         Making explicit where extra resources must be brought to bear for specific technical or institutional reasons, and anlysing how these extra resources can be found or created within the structures that will scale up the innovation.

·         Creating an environment in which it is possible to be honest and open about lessons learned-particularly failures.


Over the period of time while including the principle of LA in the developmental projects provided the number of lessons learned and highlighted several questions for the future. There are no technological or methodological silver bullets because the developmental process is highly complex and there is no single technological or methodological answer. Learning Alliance take both time and resources. The process of making a few stakeholders interested in concept, then inviting several other stakeholders to initiate the process and keeping the process going later on takes time and resources. It also needs an engine, champions to sell the idea, organise the initial meetings and keep the process going after these first steps are taken. Documentation, reporting and dissemination need a specific budget and time allocation throughout the process not at the end. It should be planned properly well in advance.

Reference - Learning Alliance approach for scaling up Innovative approaches in the Water and Sanitation sector by IRC ( International Water and Sanitation Centre) , June 2005

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