Building Healthy Cultures to Enable CLA: New CLA Toolkit Resources

Mar 28, 2019 by Samantha Levine-Finley Comments (0)

People standing in a circle

Imagine you’ve just joined a well-resourced team brimming with experienced, super-smart colleagues. You’re excited for the new opportunity, but not sure what to expect. After several weeks, you begin to notice some patterns. Your teammates don’t seem to ask many questions about the work or seek help with challenges. Many team meetings are perfunctory and dominated by routine updates, or perhaps one-way downloads from the boss. When you suggest new ways of promoting learning and innovation, you encounter hesitation. You start to think about what you can do to help.

Or perhaps you are a technical expert who has moved into your first management role. While you’re not formally trained in leadership skills, you know that you want to build a team grounded in open communication and knowledge sharing. But you’re not sure where to find the resources to back up your vision or guide your next steps. Where might you turn?

Evidence: Culture is a Key to Organizational Success

Thanks to a growing body of evidence from both quantitative and qualitative studies, we know that technical prowess, seasoned staff, and funding are only part of the recipe for organizational achievement and success. Another critical ingredient is a constructive workplace culture that values and models trust, discourse, and learning at all levels.

Research from both private and public sector organizations recognizes that having a strong organizational learning culture increases psychological empowerment and sense of autonomy, which drives a collaborative team culture, high levels of commitment, and employee retention. In the USAID context specifically, collaborating, learning and adapting (CLA)  is strongly related to staff empowerment, engagement, and job satisfaction.

New Resources in the CLA Toolkit

Knowing this, the new team member could model the practice of proactively exchanging information with colleagues to foster cross-team learning. She could also take advantage of being new to ask questions about how and why the team does certain things to help surface where they might be open to innovation. The new manager could work with the team to self-assess its practices related to culture, ensure that there is dedicated time and space for substantive knowledge exchange, or take a facilitative leadership approach to engage and empower staff.

A new compilation of resources in the CLA Toolkit brings together key tips, guidance and examples to help USAID missions and operating units enhance their organizational cultures and foster CLA.

The section also offers links to evidence that demonstrates the connection between healthy cultures, CLA, and programmatic success, and answers several questions, such as:

  • How have some USAID missions worked to transform their organizational cultures?
  • How can you use FEVS data to guide and support culture change efforts?
  • What are some tested models that can help your team design a culture change effort?
  • What is the role of culture in driving adaptive management?

Please explore this new set of resources to see what you can implement in your own team or organization. Also, please share any resources that you have found useful in designing and sustaining healthy, constructive workplace cultures to foster better development outcomes. You can send us a comment here or at