Going against the flow: the struggle to make organisational systems part of the solution rather than part of the problem: the case of ActionAid's Acountability, Learning and Planning System [ALPS]
This paper is part of the series Lessons for change about organisational learning, resulting from a collaboration between ActionAid, DFID, Sida and the Participation Group at the Institute of Development Studies to explore understandings of learning and to document innovative approaches. The paper looks at the origins of the Accountability, Learning and Planning System (ALPS), an approach to managing the learning and relationships of an international non-governmental agency, ActionAid. Starting with the origins of ALPS in the late 90s, and describing the false starts and factors that mobilised change, the authors go on to describe: the new system and what was unique about it; challenges and successes of introducing the idea and encouraging local innovation with over 30 country offices on three continents; dilemmas and contradictions between the organisation's international systems and the principles of the new accountability learning and planning system and how they were overcome; and the differences made by the new system and the work still to be done. Recognition of the need for participation and downward accountability has been around for a long time. This paper shows that the hard work starts in creating systems that will make it happen. ActionAid is by no means the only organisation which is going through this process. Hopefully some of the insights in this paper will help those on the same journey.