Case study

Facilitated learning:
Supporting organisational learning for good governance globally

Facilitated learning and support, developed in collaboration with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), which has benefitted more than 220 SDC staff, implementing partners and affiliates globally. Materials from the learning programme were also shared with national partner organisations, producing a wider ripple effect for the learning.

September 2017 to March 2022
Thematic events, seminars and short courses; technical advice and backstopping; mobilisation of knowledge networks and resources; background research, action research and synthesis.
Online and in-person at SDC offices in Switzerland and worldwide.


To support organisational learning to improve the effectiveness of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation’s (SDC’s) programmes and strategies relating to democratisation, decentralisation and local governance.


Inclusive and accountable governance is fundamental to delivering sustainable development. Good governance is a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) in itself – Goal 16 for peace, justice and strong institutions – and a means to achieve all 17 SDGs.

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is a progressive donor committed to this agenda and to working with the most marginalised and supporting transformative change through participatory, country owned processes.

To aid these processes, IDS was commissioned to support SDC’s organisational research and learning within their own programming. Specifically, we supported SDC to reflect on achievements and failures and to adapt organisational processes in response.

The thematic research support and learning, which began in 2017, continued through the global pandemic. SDC felt it was more important than ever to maintain organisational learning exchanges during this extremely challenging time, and there was a move made to virtual interaction and engagement.


This collaborative learning programme was built on a longstanding partnership between IDS and SDC. Our past work together has spanned a range of themes on democratic governance and accountability, including service delivery, local governance innovations, working in authoritarian contexts, anti-corruption programming, and employment in a digital world – with much of this work informed by participatory research processes and power analysis tools that IDS has pioneered and SDC has championed.

This programme aimed to provide research support, share learning and collaborate on policy engagement in a range of priority areas of decentralised and democratic local governance, such as: fiscal decentralisation, women’s political empowerment, social inclusion, anticorruption, and political economy.

Core programme activities included:

  • Backstopping and operational support, such as thematic advice, contributions to position papers and the facilitation and mobilisation of knowledge networks and resources.
  • Learning events (including their conception, preparation and implementation) such as online webinars, face-to-face events, short courses, governance week, and learning journeys.
  • Research and knowledge management, including background research, action research, literature reviews, synthesis papers, practical guides and video tutorials.

Where relevant we drew in expertise from our partner networks to enhance training. These included:

IDS alumni supported in-country research and learning by either being directly involved, or by helping connect us to the appropriate stakeholders and networks.



IDS staff and partner organisations in collaboration with SDC.

Participant information

SDC staff, implementing partners and affiliates working on governance from offices around the world.

Examples of participant job roles include:

  • SDC Policy Advisors at SDC’s Headquarters in Switzerland
  • Programme Managers in country offices
  • Programme Officers in country offices

Participant numbers

  • Approximately 220


Over the course of the programme more than 220 SDC staff, implementing partners and affiliates globally directly benefitted.

A series of interviews found that IDS-facilitated learning on the theme of ‘Working in Authoritarian Contexts’ was particularly well received by SDC national staff, sparking new ideas, understanding and strengthened connections with colleagues working in similar contexts across the SDC Governance Network.

Another SDC staff member said the facilitated learning activity provided a platform to share her work on mainstreaming anti-corruption initiatives with a large audience. This resulted in new conversations with SDC staff in the region.

Materials from the learning programme were also shared with national partner organisations, producing a wider ripple effect for the learning.

Exceptional in terms of complexity and reach.
I have never participated in such a [learning] journey before and it was very nicely organised. The content was really very interesting and connected to our reality, what we are doing. We found it very useful, everything that was taught.
After two years of Covid I haven’t seen such an engaged intellectual discussion before. It was the level of academic rigour that is still useful for an implementer like us.
- SDC National Programme Officer

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About this case study

Research themes
Governance & Power

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