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

Don’t plan for us, plan with us: the power of women’s leadership in emergencies
Women and girls are the hardest hit by conflict and disasters but often have little or no say in the design and delivery of humanitarian aid. CARE’s Women Lead in…
5 minute inspiration: How peace returns in Somalia
“Initially, we opposed and resisted the [displaced people] from being settled in our community land. [These] are people who came in with nothing and wanted to use and enjoy our…
Opening open government: How women’s rights organisations strengthen government commitments to transparency, accountability and participation in the Philippines
How can governments around the world become more transparent, improve accountability and empower citizens through meaningful participation? One answer is to proactively engage women’s rights organisations in open government processes,…
5 minute inspiration: Finding ways through divisive conflict
For the first time in history, the United States has elected a woman of colour as Vice-President. It’s a historic moment for celebration. But the election also showed that America…

Publications See all

Every Voice Counts: Domains of change research
This report presents a review of experiences from the Every Voice Counts (EVC) programme, an inclusive governance initiative implemented by CARE Nederland and partners from 2016 to 2020. The overall objective…
Beyond economic empowerment: The influence of savings groups on women's public participation in fragile and (post) conflict-affected settings
Research shows that in addition to improving income and access to savings, women’s participation in savings groups also improves their confidence, skills and ability to influence household decision-making. This prompts…
Opening open government: Women’s rights organisations and the Open Government Partnership in the Philippines
This research was funded by the Feminist Open Government Initiative, which uses research and action to encourage governments and civil society to champion initiatives leading to gender advancements in and…
Transforming leadership, challenging injustice: CARE’s approach to achieving women’s equal voice and leadership in public life and decision-making
Women’s marginalisation in public life and under-representation in decision-making and leadership perpetuates gender injustice. Supporting women to have a say in decisions that affect their lives is a strategy for…

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