• In an innovative initiative, Mercy Corps and the International Rescue Committee demonstrate strategies to facilitate better delivery of aid

By adopting strategies that allow for more flexibility, humanitarian and development organizations can significantly improve program delivery within complex and fragile environments, according to a new report published by the global aid organizations the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Mercy Corps.

The findings counter current, widely adopted practices in the field, which often reflect linear program models and centralized control over decision-making. “The findings show the determination of our field teams to adapt their work to the challenging, constantly changing environments in which they work,” says Alison Hemberger, Markets and Learning Advisor at Mercy Corps and one of the authors of the study. “We hope this report helps to create a sea change in practice that will eventually lead to greater benefits in the communities where we work.”

The report is a result of a collaboration between the IRC and Mercy Corps called ADAPT, or Analysis Driven Agile Programming Techniques. ADAPT was born of frustration among field practitioners with the lack of flexibility and limitations in current practices in delivering aid. The report includes case studies from six countries – Uganda, Myanmar, Sierra Leone, Syria, Niger and Liberia -- where Mercy Corps and IRC field teams employed adaptive approaches to quickly meet changes in context and need.

“This report demonstrates that when aid agencies and donors enter into flexible partnerships, aid is more effective. We hope the entrepreneurial actions and honest reflections detailed in this report will inspire others to realize the potential of adaptive programming,” says Jon Beloe, Director of Context Adaptability at the IRC and an author of the report.

The next stage of the ADAPT program involves field-testing some of the promising adaptive management techniques that surfaced in the project’s first phase.

Read about or download the report “Adapting Aid” and case studies.