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ADAPT: Analysis Driven Agile Programming Techniques

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A growing body of research indicates that aid agencies are most successful when able to operate flexibly, particularly in fragile environments. Yet our systems and tools are often too rigid to effectively address complex problems, and program incentives frequently undermine adaptation instead of supporting it. To drive improvements in impact we need to be better able to analyse the dynamics of a given situation, anticipate how these might evolve, and be sufficiently agile to adapt to changes in context and need.

In 2015 the International Rescue Committee and Mercy Corps joined forces to launch ADAPT (Analysis Driven Agile Programming Techniques) to research, innovate and field test adaptive management techniques for the sector.

Three questions dominate the adaptive management discourse:

  1. What does it look like in practice?
  2. What impact can it have?
  3. And how can it best be nurtured?

ADAPT tackled these questions through case studies examining programs in different complex contexts. A report was published in July 2016.

Highlights of what we learned from each case include:

  • In Niger’s Diffa region, an emergency intervention leveraged information management to create an external enabling environment for a more effective humanitarian response. Download the overview.
  • In Sierra Leone, two education projects underway when Ebola hit highlighted how compliance arrangements can either amplify or stifle adaptability. Download the overview.
  • In Myanmar’s Kayah State, a health project showed how context analysis can be used to manage partner relations and enable opportunistic programming. Download the overview.
  • In Liberia, a social mobilization project, launched in response to Ebola, demonstrated that a clear external motivation and shared goal can form a powerful anchor for adaptation and learning. Download the overview.
  • In Uganda’s Acholi region, an agricultural market development program underlined the importance of leadership and organizational culture in driving teams to improve. Download the overview.
  • In South and Central Syria, a partner-led relief program demonstrated how situational awareness must be built deliberately to inform strategic decisions in a crisis. Download the overview.

The learning and innovation of our field teams has been incorporated into adaptive management pilots due to be launched in Central African Republic, Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Yemen in May 2016.