Rhetoric or redundant? Making the most of adaptive management

January 25, 2021

“Adaptive management” has become one of those pieces of jargon dropped into international development program plans and proposals as an all-encompassing, sometimes throw-away term with little practical meaning. Yet we continue to use it. Why? Because while it often conceals more than it illuminates, it also represents something essential: the idea that a project must be managed in a way that enables ethical adaptation as the problem, context, or project needs shift.

This concept has become a self-evident truth, such that the “adaptive” in adaptive management borders on redundancy. However, that it has become self-evident says a lot about how much our thinking has advanced over the years, from measuring success based on strict adherence to workplans and tasks and bean-counting, to a gradual embrace of uncertainty and systems complexity. Yet the practical application of managing adaptively remains varied and nebulous. To discuss different models, Pact convened a panel of leading practitioners and thinkers in effectively applying adaptive management.

Read the full article on USAID's Learning Lab blog