There is a growing consensus around adaptive management as an effective (even necessary) approach when programs are tackling complex development problems. While there is no standard definition of adaptive management, there is general agreement that such programs need to routinely engage with and respond to program context; constantly test what works in that context; and adjust approaches, plans, and activities based on continuous learning.
However, there remains a more limited body of evidence about what this looks like in practice—the enabling conditions, systems, resourcing, skills, and attitudes to effectively operationalise adaptive management. There is also limited guidance around when adaptive management is required, and to what extent—both critical and often overlooked considerations when planning for successful adaptive management.
This Guidance Note draws together lessons and good practice in adaptive management from across DT Global’s diverse portfolio of donor-funded programs. It outlines our conceptual framework for adaptive management, with practical guidance on how it can be applied by our program teams. It is also designed to help our teams distinguish adaptive management from good (non adaptive) project management, consider when adaptive management is most useful on a program, and how adaptive a program (or part of a program) should be.