Adaptive Management is a hot topic these days in international development, but it’s nothing new. One of the distinguishing factors of programs, projects, and personnel working to improve the lives of the world’s most vulnerable people in developing countries is that the contexts and conditions in which they work are unstable, unpredictable, and often uncooperative. Yet in these environments, donor agencies usually implement their programs through fairly directive contracts with mandated targets that can quickly become unattainable if the operating contexts – already volatile – change.
So how are international development professionals, implementing development programs in challenging contexts supposed to effectively manage towards impact? The answer – from both the funders and successful partners – is through intentional, learning-oriented Adaptive Management. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been a thought-leader on Adaptive Management, building it into internal agency capacity and guidance as well as requiring it as part of requests for proposals (RFPs) and requests for applications (RFAs).
I experienced this growing emphasis on Adaptive Management first-hand when I had the opportunity to lead the USAID Learning and Knowledge Management (LEARN) contract for four years, and worked closely with USAID’s Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning (PPL) and its Collaborating, Learning and Adapting (CLA)team to develop tools, resources, and capacity-building materials for its Missions and Operating Units around the world. And I’ve been equally fortunate enough to have been asked, since leaving the LEARN contract, to support other implementing partners to increase their Adaptive Management capacity, and to watch the vision of CLA become reality across USAID, with other development donors, and with their implementing partners.
I am delighted to have been asked to work closely again with Alix Wadeson, Nicola Giordano, and staff from the University of Bologna and the Center for International Development (CID) at the State University of New York, Albany to co-create and co-facilitate the upcoming course “Adaptive Management Theory and Practice for International Development” in Washington, DC in March 2020. The course will build on the content and what we learned from the 5-day training course we delivered last June at the University of Bologna, but will provide content, examples, and speakers more specifically relevant to a Washington, DC-based audience. We hope you join us!
To learn more about this course, visit the course site.
Piers Bocock is the former Chief of Party for the USAID LEARN contract, and currently a Principal at Acute Incite, LLC (www.acuteincite.com)