Celebrating Seven Years of Partnership with USAID’s Mission in Egypt

By Adriana Abreu-Combs, Chief of Party for the Services to Improve Performance Management, Improve Learning and Evaluation (SIMPLE) project at QED Group.

Last week, I had the privilege of reflecting on QED’s work in Egypt at the closeout ceremony for USAID’s Services to Improve Performance Management, Enhance Learning and Evaluation (SIMPLE) project.

“It has been an incredible journey. A journey of transformation and of Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting (CLA) and a process of building and solidifying a partnership based on trust,” I remarked at the Learning Souq (“marketplace” in Arabic), which attracted nearly 100 guests including Mission staff, QED’s local partners and consultants, as well as representatives of implementing partners heading other USAID-funded activities in country.

I was humbled to hear my own words echoed by Mission staff speaking at the event, who agreed that the last seven years have truly been a transformational time, resulting in the elevation of the importance of performance management and CLA at the Mission.

The event was the project’s final demonstration of CLA in practice: a learning opportunity intentionally designed as a gathering where the seeds of collaboration are planted. It was our last chance to walk the talk of CLA, and in large measure the event was a microcosm of the broader learning process that has been unleashed at the Mission with SIMPLE support.

There was an abundance of enthusiasm in the room as guests picked up a passport at the event entrance and embarked on a mission to collect stamps as they moved around five stations. The route was charted across “streets” like Evidence Way, Knowledge Drive, Data Highway, CLA Lane, and Insights Boulevard.

Guests followed these pathways to share and learn one more time with SIMPLE and each other. To earn stamps at each station, guests played games or did exercises that used thoughtful inquiry methods or other tricks. One station offered a Jeopardy experience. Organized around five categories related to the different types of learning methods and events where SIMPLE has supported the Mission (including field-based portfolio review, learning fairs, communities of practice, etc.), each connected to five different point values associated for each category (100–500, ascending in difficulty).

In the Digging Deeper: Evaluations/Assessments station, guests were asked to spin a large wheel which named individual assessments and evaluations SIMPLE has conducted. Depending on which category the wheel landed on, participants received an infographic on the topic and engaged in a conversation with SIMPLE. Each station was carefully designed to be a moment of reflection and learning.

The immediate reaction of guests to the creativity and innovation in front of their eyes was excitement. Many not only collected their stamps at the stations but also aimed for a visa — attainable when all five station stamps were obtained.

Partners particularly voiced their appreciation for the knowledge and skills gained in a recent Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) and CLA training delivered by SIMPLE, and which they are already applying in their work. Thanks to the training, they feel a true shift in their thinking and how they approach MEL and CLA after the training.

If enthusiasm is the measure, our event certainly measured up. It was a wonderful way to mark the transformational nature of our seven-year partnership with USAID, and the closing of an important chapter for SIMPLE and QED.