LearnAdapt: a synthesis of our work on adaptive programming with DFID/FCDO (2017–2020)

Resource type
LearnAdapt: a synthesis of our work on adaptive programming with DFID/FCDO (2017–2020)
Key takeaways. • Development is not linear or straightforward, but rather complex, uncertain and context-specific. This calls for international development actors to work differently, in ways that are based on deliberate experimentation, learning and adaptation, to inform decisions and drive effective development. • Although it might go by different names, adaptive programming has been used in a variety of areas and fields in both the public and private sectors. Development practitioners have much to learn from and contribute to these different approaches and experiences. • Trust and relationship-building across all relevant stakeholders are among the most critical enabling factors for adaptive management. They are essential to give partners the space, autonomy and authority needed to try, test, reflect, iterate and feed back at the frontline of implementation, and to give donors the confidence that decisions are being made on the basis of evidence and learning to improve effectiveness. • There is an urgent need to rethink how accountability requirements, results frameworks, value for money considerations, performance markers, procurement and contracting mechanisms and other processes are understood and applied so that they are better aligned with and can support adaptive management more effectively. • The role of senior managers leading adaptive programmes from the donor side should be to create a space for experimentation and learning. Funders should hold their partners accountable for learning and how it feeds into effective programming, rather than for delivering on predetermined targets. • While formal guidance is important, leadership, champions, institutional incentives, a supportive management culture and appropriate mindsets are essential to encourage adaptive ways of working. • Adaptive management is resource-intensive. It requires skill, commitment, time for building trust and investments in learning. It is a journey, not an immediate destination – so it calls for patience, open-mindedness and a more nuanced approach to risk.
Series Title
Briefing Note
05/08/2021, 22:09
Laws, E., Pett, J., Proud, E., & Rocha Menocal, A. (2021). LearnAdapt: a synthesis of our work on adaptive programming with DFID/FCDO (2017–2020) (Briefing Note). ODI. https://cdn.odi.org/media/documents/learnadapt_summary_note_2021.pdf