Translating learning to transformational change in the Commonwealth

As the world continues to grapple with the far-reaching impacts of COVID-19, the Commonwealth Secretariat is adapting rapidly to new pressures, while maintaining efforts towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This builds on the Secretariat’s ongoing reform process, which includes an organisation-wide digital transformation and an enhanced approach to monitoring and evaluation.

In April 2021, the Secretariat will host a Virtual Commonwealth Learning Week to reflect on the lessons learned over the past ten years in terms of organisational strategy, and how it can enhance its role as an effective global partner for the 2030 Agenda, in the face of multiple global crises.

Specifically, the week is intended to:

  • Highlight, share and discuss lessons and evidence towards more impactful programmes and actions;
  • Reflect on progress in national monitoring, evaluation and learning systems with a view to identifying enablers for evidence-informed policies and planning;
  • Facilitate peer engagements among stakeholders, staff and partners representing diverse professional, political and academic experiences and expertise to bridge the gap between lessons and learning for addressing the SDG implementation deficit; and
  • Challenge the Commonwealth community to learn, innovate and accelerate actions towards the 2030 SDGs.

This years’ learning week is hosted in collaboration with the Global Evaluation Initiative (GEI) of the World Bank Group. As a global network of institutional partners and experts working in the field of M&E, the GEI strengthens M&E systems and capacities in countries across the globe at three levels:

  1. The enabling environment e.g. by supporting the development of legislation or policies that facilitate the supply and utilization of evaluative evidence);
  2. The institutional environment e.g. by supporting institutions in developing their systems of supply and demand for evaluative evidence;
  3. The individual e.g. by delivering trainings to different types of stakeholders to strengthen their individual capacities in the supply and utilization of evaluative evidence.

The Learning Week is to be held virtually and will consist of nine stand-alone sessions over the three days, each session discussing a different topic associated with our learning journey.

The outcomes of the Learning Week 2021 will support the development of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s new strategic plan, ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Governments meeting in June 2021.


Day 1 –  27 April 2021: A decade of learning 2010-2020

Discussions will look at the Commonwealth journey over the past decade, including a deeper look at the challenges, triumphs and lessons of 2020/2021

  • Session 1 (09:30 – 11:00hrs UK time) – Opening Session – The opening session will welcome speakers, participants and guests to the Commonwealth Secretariat’s 2021 Learning event. It will set the expectations for the week outlining the broad themes. Keynote and opening speeches from the Secretary-General and co-hosts, Global Evaluation Initiative.
  • Session 2 (11:30 – 13:00hrs UK time) – A Decade of Commonwealth Learning – This session will outline the unique place of the Commonwealth in delivering accelerated action to its member states and highlight key lessons over the past decade of learning 2010 – 2020 in: Advancing Democracy; Trade & Economic Reform; Climate Resilience, Action and Adaptation.
  • Session 3 (14:00 – 15:30hrs UK time) – The Value of Multilateralism and International Cooperation – This session will highlight the role of multilateralism and global governance in delivering to the SDGs and particularly the value of the Commonwealth brand in safeguarding values, brokering key partnerships and amplifying the voices of small states.  Through contributions from external stakeholders, this session will also draw on lessons learnt, and directions set by multilateral and intergovernmental organisations as well as challenge the approach outlined by the Commonwealth Secretariat. 

Day 2 – 28 April 2021: Learn and adapt

Sessions will focus on the Commonwealth Secretariat’s learning. Presentations will cover results realised, lessons learnt, outstanding gaps and opportunities for accelerating actions and building partnerships.

  • Session 1 (09:30 – 11:00hrs UK time) – Building M&E Systems and Capacities to achieve progress towards the SDGs in the Commonwealth – This session will discuss how the Secretariat’s has worked to enable member countries’ capacity to accelerate their own development and reforms towards their SDGs. It will focus on the role of GEI in supporting capacity building in M&E systems to close evidence gaps on good policies.
  • Session 2 (11:30 – 13:00hrs UK time) – The Commonwealth Advantage in Consensus Building & Connectivity – This session will focus on the key learning and unique approach of the Secretariat to support work within the consensus building, connectivity and networks space and highlight the key lessons which we have learnt over the past decade.
  • Session 3 (14:00 – 15:30hrs UK time) – Adapting from learning to Accelerate Action – This session will focus upon the how the Secretariat has reformed, adapted and learned to improve and build upon its performance and areas where we continue to learn.

Day 3 – 29 April 2021: Accelerating impact

The focus will be on the future and the Commonwealth’s strategic thrust for the next ten years – aligning with the global agenda to accelerate actions and impact towards the SDGs.

  • Session 1 (09:30 – 11:00hrs UK time) – The Commonwealth as a Global SDG Partner of Value – This discussion will highlight the Commonwealth’s advantages in supporting countries to meet their SDG goals and in generating knowledge and evidence on ‘what works’ which can be shared with the global community. Representing Member States, Commonwealth Organisations as well as Multilateral organisations will share their organisational experiences and provide their own reflections on the Commonwealth’s potential in adding value and addressing SDG gaps.
  • Session 2 (11:30 – 13:00hrs UK time) – Advancing Resilience – This session provides an opportunity to reflect and highlight the challenge to resilience faced by all organisations and Member States, particularly, small and vulnerable states. This discussion will be led by presentations across the spectrum of partners including Member States, Multilateral and Commonwealth Organisations.
  • Session 3 (14:00 – 16:00hrs UK time) – How data science applications may change the practice of evaluation & Closing Session – We are in the midst of a data revolution. In recent years, the volume and speed with which data are generated, collected and analyzed have significantly increased. This has created new opportunities (as well as challenges) for the field of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of policy interventions. This session will discuss some of the potential and challenges of using data science applications in the field of M&E. Closing keynote speeches from the Secretary-General, guest speakers and Evelyn Pedersen, Head of Evaluation and Learning, Commonwealth Secretariat.


To register as a participant to any of the sessions, please follow the registration details here.

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