In Depth
Adaptive development

Adaptive development

Politically smart adaptive management is a means to tackle international development challenges that are complex and multi-faceted.

Our ambition as an INGO is to shift the power so that the groups and communities we work with have a greater say over the decisions that affect their lives. For CARE, adaptive development means more understanding and engagement with power dynamics in the particular contexts we work in. We do this in our programmes through the integration of the following tools:

CARE is also part of a group of INGOs that are working towards Doing Development Differently (DDD). We are also working to shift the debate so that it takes a stronger focus on Southern perspectives.

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CARE briefing paper on adaptive learning: When theory meets practice: An applied approach and tool for adaptive management

Implementation learning tools: tools and examples from the Inspiring Married Adolescent Girls to Imagine New Empowered Futures (IMAGINE) programme

Sounding clever or being smart? – How to do more with less in evaluating governance programmes - Governance Advisor Tom Aston discusses the value of contribution tracing as an evaluation method in two CARE projects, one in Ghana and one in Bangladesh

Piloting the Contribution Tracing approach for impact evaluation: Learning from Ghana’s Strengthening Accountability Mechanisms Project - Mohammed Nurudeen Salifu discusses the pilot evaluation of a project in Ghana using the contribution tracing method and five lessons learned

The DDD agenda: questions from a development practitioner from the South - Gilbert Muyumbu, a Kenyan practitioner of development and CARE Governance and Accountability Advisor, highlights the problems with the DDD agenda from his perspective

Four suggestions on how Doing Development Differently can better listen to and engage Southern civil society - in response to Gilbert's blog and the lively debate that followed, Rebecca Haines discusses four suggestions for the DDD agenda that emerged through the debate

One step back, two steps forward: CARE’s journey towards doing development differently - Tom Aston looks at what DDD principles CARE is reflecting well, working on and needs to develop further

Avoiding the data trap blog 3: An ancient monk’s solution for confidence - third and final blog in a series drawing from a case study of a contribution tracing pilot evaluation of Ghana’s Strengthening Accountability Mechanisms project

How to avoid toolsplaining: Thinking differently about social accountability - Tom Aston argues the need to test assumptions that tools used are the only cause of change. Using the contribution tracing method allows causal pathways for how change happened to be identified

Capturing complex change: Is it really all about confidence? - blog on the importance of explaining how change happened, not merely asserting that it did

Blogs See all

The UK government is at risk of failing our first 100 day tests on equality, climate and development
When this new government was elected, CARE International UK and our supporters called for four actions in their first 100 days that would demonstrate their commitment to gender equality, tackling…
How Community Score Cards are helping police in Nepal tackle gender-based violence
“Even as a child, we were always told to fear the police. But seldom were we taught that the police is there for us. We need to work together to…
How braver citizens make governments more effective
It’s something every country in the world can use right now: braver citizens and more responsive governments. That’s what CARE’s Implementation of Social Accountability Framework project in Cambodia achieved. So…
Doing Development Differently in the Global South: ways forward in localising the approach
On 4 December 2018 CARE International and British Council convened a workshop in Nairobi with the title “Doing Development Differently in the Global South” to consider how the Doing Development…

Publications See all

A journey through the Community Score Card in Malawi: From innovation to sustainability
CARE has a long history of applying social accountability approaches across multiple sectors. One of CARE’s most effective tools for social accountability is the Community Score Card© (CSC). This briefing…
Government-led Community Score Card for family planning services
One persistent challenge with social accountability approaches is that, while they can and do bring meaningful change at the individual and community-level, they often struggle to maintain momentum without significant…
Listen carefully. Tread lightly. Adapt quickly. – Approaching Adaptive Management: Examples from our Somalia education programming
Adaptive management approaches potentially offer us opportunities to deliver high quality results in circumstances where change is complex, including in fragile, unstable or conflict affected places. However, building adaptive programming…
Inclusive Governance Progress Report 2018
Promoting inclusive governance for CARE means that women, men, girls and boys should have the opportunity and ability to participate meaningfully in public decisions that affect their lives, hold decision-makers…

You might also be interested in

Measuring the hard to measure in development – video of panel discussion at ODI event in January 2018

On the road to adaptive management: share how – BEAM Exchange resources list and expert blogs

How are INGOs Doing Development Differently? 5 of them have just taken a look – blog by Oxfam's Duncan Green on the 'How INGOs are doing development differently' publication

Looks like the NGOs are stepping up on ‘Doing Development Differently’. Good – Oxfam's Duncan Green looks at what INGOs can bring to the table for the wider DDD community

LearnAdapt blog – a collaboration between DFID, ODI and Brink to explore how to manage adaptive development programmes better

How can a gendered understanding of power and politics make development work more effective? – Duncan Green's blog on the Developmental Leadership Program report on how development workers can better incorporate gender aware and politically informed approaches

Illicit economies, shadowy realms, and survival at the margins – Eric Gutierrez, Senior Adviser at Christian Aid,  writes that more and more research is starting to put illicit economies on the agenda of development agencies

Adapting development: Why it matters and 3 ways to do it – Devex article by Leni Wild from the Overseas Development Institute


Resources and links

How INGOs are Doing Development Differently – cross-sector position paper by CARE, IRC, Mercy Corps, Oxfam, World Vision

Doing Development Differently website – contains the DDD manifesto, blogs and forum for DDD community

World Vision's practices and learning in Doing Development Differently – publication on World Vision's approach to Doing Development Differently and what they have learned so far

Managing to adapt: Analysing adaptive management for planning – report by a group of students from LSE in partnership with Oxfam. It presents a collection of case studies from Oxfam and other agencies to illustrate concrete examples of how programmes can incorporate adaptive practices at different stages of the planning cycle. It also offers practical suggestions to development actors to support adaptive practices

The road to adaptive management: knowledge, leadership, culture and rules – study by BEAM Exchange examining the incentives and constraints to adaptive programming across the donor-implementer relationship

USAID Learning Lab page – contains resources focusing on context-driven adaptation. 

Adapting aid: Lessons from six case studies – publication by Mercy Corps and IRC. This report is a reflection on an ADAPT partnership, sharing learnings about how adaptive management can advance the effectiveness and impact of aid

The beginner’s guide to political economy analysis: UK Aid learning resource for those working on delivering development initiatives overseas

Putting gender in political economy analysis: Why it matters and how to do it – publication by the Gender & Development Network, with contributions from Tam O'Neil, CARE's Senior Gender Advisor. It is a guidance note for practitioners, to help integrate an understanding of gender and its effects into each stage of a political economy analysis

Thinking and working politically (TWP) through applied political economy analysis (PEA) – a guide for practitioners by USAID

Practice what you preach tool for staff transformation – resource by USAID with guidance for adaptive management teams

Learning to make a difference – Christian Aid Ireland and ODI report assessing the relevance of adaptive programme management or trial-and-error approaches to the field of governance, peace building and human rights