As a small business, The Cloudburst Group (Cloudburst) has proved its ability to bring academic and local partners together to conduct time-sensitive assessments and special studies for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), providing clear and actionable findings that inform program and policy design. Under the Learning, Evaluation, and Research (LER) II Task Order with the USAID Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance (DRG), Cloudburst conducts research that advances the Department of State and USAID’s Joint Strategic Plan for 2022–2026 Goal 3, which aims to “strengthen democratic institutions, uphold universal values, and promote human dignity.” 

As a trusted small business partner to USAID, Cloudburst has helped the State Department and USAID to revitalize democracy in the face of expanding autocratic movements around the globe in support of Strategic Objective 3.1 to “promote good governance and defend strong, accountable, and resilient democracies that deliver for their citizens.” 

Cloudburst uses its agility, nimbleness, and flexibility as a small business and its relationships with local organizations and academics to advance this Strategic Objective.  Under LER II, Cloudburst has conducted multiple assessments and studies across the globe to inform USAID’s activities that increase demand for democracy, equip citizens to use the levers of power to meet basic needs, and support a strong civil society and media. Building from this and other evidence, Cloudburst has developed DRG practitioner guides in sub-sectors, such as media, civic education, digital citizenship and sustainable landscapes, to facilitate robust activity design.

For example, Cloudburst developed USAID’s Media for Democracy Assessment Tool for Missions to design programs that support free media. The toolkit is a practical and approachable set of steps for USAID technical and program officers to inform potential media development programming and provide an informed understanding of where USAID investment is most feasible and needed and will have the most impact. Cloudburst is also currently producing a Civic Education and Digital Citizenship Primer, a guide to potential approaches, lessons learned, and evidence for use by USAID staff and the implementing community when developing activities related to civic education, digital citizenship, media literacy, and digital literacy. 

Cloudburst worked with the Sustainable Landscapes (SL) (now Natural Climate Solutions [NCS]) team to produce the SL DRG Guide. The guide is a clear and practical introduction to the crucial links between climate change mitigation efforts and democratic governance, highlighting the efforts of local communities in this area. 

This Guide was a reference document for the 2022 USAID Climate Strategy, and it is being used to facilitate collaboration between the DRG and NCS teams within USAID. Cloudburst is further working on two such collaborations: a literature review and technical note that describes the political economy considerations of NCS work to improve its efficacy, and a political economy analysis of the forest sector in Papua New Guinea to explore how USAID can design effective programming to reduce deforestation.

Cross-Sectoral Guide: Sustainable Landscapes & Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance highlighted collaborations at all levels that benefit both DRG and climate mitigation work.    

Strategic Objective 3.5 is to “improve inclusive and equitable health, education, and livelihood services, especially for women, youth, and marginalized groups,” which includes efforts to strengthen local capacity and amplify the voices and concerns of marginalized groups. Throughout its work on LER II, Cloudburst has partnered with five small local firms on research projects, strengthening local capacity. In addition, Cloudburst is completing a suite of studies focused on developing evidence-based strategies to address barriers to women’s political participation and leadership (WPPL). This work includes an evidence review and accompanying practitioners’ guide on established strategies and best practices for addressing barriers to women’s political participation at the individual, institutional, and socio-cultural norm levels, as well as a toolkit on social behavior change (SBC) for promoting WPPL. 

Cloudburst’s research also focuses on integrating marginalized groups into DRG programming. In Nigeria, Cloudburst’s assessment of a project to support electoral management bodies examined how USAID could support facilitating wider, more inclusive electoral participation of Nigerian citizens including women, youth, and persons with disabilities. Cloudburst’s recent mid-term review of a family/gender-based violence (F/GBV) program in the Dominican Republic identified approaches that have the potential to reduce F/GBV and made recommendations for improving those approaches for the remaining years of the project.