USAID Education Policy and Reform: Changes in EiCC Activity Solicitations
Before USAID’s Education Strategy of 2011, there was a considerable body of literature providing guidance on education needs and strategies for crisis and conflict-affected environments (EiCC), yet there was little robust evidence to support this guidance. Since 2011, USAID has progressively sought to provide further guidance, as well as build the evidence base for what works. The Agency’s establishment of the Education in Crisis and Conflict Network (ECCN) in 2014 created a community of practice of USAID staff and implementing partners aimed at strengthening research and knowledge sharing that would contribute to improved policy and programming in the field of education in crisis and conflict.
This report provides an analysis of USAID’s activity designs for EiCC solicitations during the period 2011 through 2018.1
Solicitation documents were chosen for this analysis because (1) they reflect USAID’s policy implementation as reflected by Missions’ activity designs and (2) it is possible to reliably compare solicitation documents across activities and time periods, given that they have similar purposes, structures, and content.
The report is organized into four sections. Section 1 provides the context of USAID’s education strategy, policy, and guidance for EiCC. It explains the purpose of the study, which focuses on four policy areas:
- The use of theories of change in activity designs
- The use of evidence to support the strategies and elements in those activity designs
- Adaptive management using an emergent theory of change (TOC) and the collaborating, learning, and adapting (CLA) Framework for EiCC contexts
- The development of local institutional capacity, which is prioritized in the recent USAID Education Policy (2018)
Section 2 describes the methodology used to analyze EiCC solicitations for the 2011–2014 and the 2015–2018 periods (see Annex A for the solicitation document list). The study team analyzed 18 solicitation documents for the earlier period, and 16 for the later period. The methodology consisted of a document analysis using a themes template (Annex C) and a rubric for assessing the activity designs across the program cycle on a scale reflecting a planned and emergent TOC (Annex D). The rubric was fully consistent with the CLA Framework.
Section 2 concludes with a description of the following study limitations:
- The study does not examine how these activities were implemented and performed.
- The study does not attribute the relative contribution to the solicitation’s activity design from (a) Agency statements of strategy, policy, and guidance; (b) the role of the USAID EiCC/Office and the Regional Bureaus in providing technical guidance to country Missions; and (c) the role of ECCN, which was established to strengthen planning and programming for EiCC.
The study’s findings are presented in Section 3 and summarized in Table 1, comparing the 2011–2014 study with the 2015–2018 review.
An overall conclusion from this comparative analysis of the solicitations over the eight-year period since 2011 is that there has been a significant change toward more evidence-based TOCs in activity designs and a more frequent reference to the terms and elements of the CLA Framework, especially the term “collaboration,” with local institutions to enhance capacity development. These developments reflect the USAID Education Policy of 2018 and the Acquisitions and Assistance Strategy (2019), which call for strengthening systems with flexible, emergent TOCs to respond to complex, dynamic environments; driving decision-making using evidence and data; and prioritizing country-focus and ownership.
However, a deeper analysis of the solicitation documents reveals numerous cases with a superficial use of the CLA Framework and a prescriptive approach to local institutional capacity development (LICD). However, in the 2015–2018 period, three of the 16 documents used alternative approaches leading to solicitations, such as the Annual Program Statement (APS) and the Broad Agency Announcement (BAA). These documents indicate a shift of USAID Missions’ increasing emphasis on local ownership and LICD through collaboration and co-design.
The study concludes with a discussion of these findings and a set of five recommendations:
- Provide further orientation to, training on, and sharing of EiCC solicitations that effectively embody the USAID Education Policy (2018) and Guidance.
- Review and update USAID’s Evaluation Policy for EiCC so as to be consistent with the new USAID Education Policy and Guidance.
- Develop further guidance to clarify the term “collaboration” in the CLA Framework.
- Advocate and support Missions’ use and development of evidence in solicitations.
- Use this study’s methodology to track further developments in EiCC solicitation.
1 For the 2015–2018 period, USAID for EiCC activities made use of Annual Program Statements (APS) and Broad Agency Announcements (BAA) to seek creative approaches and processes for engaging partners in developing activity designs. These mechanisms are pre-solicitation documents, indicating a USAID/Mission’s interest in a development challenge. The BAA itself is not, in fact, a procurement process. Thus, when we use the term solicitation documents: we include both the APS and BAA.