The ACS project took time to Pause and Learn from its first start-up year, as it ramps up its work in year two.

Typically, a project review is done “post-mortem” – after the fact, and well past any opportunity to change the outcome. However, the ACS team builds in periodic reviews to learn, adjust and reformulate our support throughout implementation.

It is common for project teams to finish their work and then study their processes and results to determine what happened. From there, project leaders decide which processes to keep and what they’ll do differently next time—if there is a next time.

Wouldn’t it be better to assess along the way – so that teams can take time to pause, learn, and improve performance immediately?

That’s the approach of the African Collaborative for Health Financing Solutions (ACS) project.  To this end, ACS team members gathered in Nairobi, Kenya (February 2019) for the project’s second so-called Pause and Learn (PaL).





The PaL method is one that many organizations have adopted. NASA, Shell Oil, IBM, Fidelity Investments and the U.S. Army take time to reflect and adapt. R4D, and the other implementing partners of the ACS project, believes that such moments can lend many benefits including:

  • Identifying best practices
  • Acknowledging what has not gone well, and where a pivot is needed
  • On-the-spot individual and team learning
  • Building a team approach, with varied levels of experience, to problem-solving
  • Building team cohesion, trust and morale
  • Increasing the likelihood of project success

Team members continually asked themselves questions such as, “What did we intend to do?” “What worked, and why?” “What didn’t work well, and why?” “What can we learn from our experiences?” “How can we apply this learning to another activity or country context?” and, “What should/can we change?”

Team members also reviewed how they will monitor and measure project outputs that make impact and discussed ways in which cross-cutting focal areas, such as strategic communications, knowledge management, and monitoring and evaluation can support all three ACS project pillars: Collaboration, Learning and, Accountability.  Others reported on current activities underway in Uganda, and learnings from this work that are already helping to inform scoping in Benin as well as activities being launched in Botswana and Namibia.

The team will not have to wait until its next formal Pause and Learn retreat to engage in continuous improvement.  Moving forward ACS will implement Mini Pause and Learns called After Action Reviews (AARs) after each activity to ensure even deeper learning as our work unfolds.