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Supporting local learning and adaptation – Unpacking the effectiveness of adaptive processes

Blog | December 13, 2017 | Michael Moses and Sue Soal

When it comes to improving the effectiveness of governance reform efforts, there is an emerging consensus on the importance of local ownership, as well as growing interest in the potential and applicability of adaptive programming.

Despite this, many donors and multilaterals that seek to support governance reform continue to employ linear, compliance-driven project and programme management frameworks. As a result, implementers and local partners are often limited in the extent to which they can reflect, learn and adapt as they navigate the complex political contexts in which they work.

This disconnect between what is known, and what persists in practice, is driven by several lingering questions: Are adaptive approaches effective? What do they look like, in practice? And how might external actors support their application?

In Learning to Make All Voices Count (L-MAVC), Global Integrity explored these questions, working with six grantees in five countries (Indonesia, the Philippines, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa), to apply a learning-centered, adaptive project management methodology to their work to open governance in their contexts.

Grantees rigorously documented every step of their adaptive learning journeys, and at the conclusion of the project, distilled short case stories capturing the key features of their L-MAVC experience. L-MAVC therefore offers six evidence-based examples of adaptive learning in practice. Taken together, these projects, and the project as a whole, are a small laboratory, a collection of experiments that explore how to work adaptively in pursuit of governance reform, and whether doing so supports the achievement of results.

The evidence from L-MAVC suggests that adaptive ways of working can in fact strengthen the impact and effectiveness of efforts to open governance. This is especially so when three conditions are met:

  • implementers proactively interrogate their assumptions, and engage with local stakeholders, and the contexts in which they are working
  • adaptive ways of working are integrated into existing systems and procedures in implementing organisations
  • implementing organisations are able to maintain staff continuity.

For more on these conditions, and whether and how external actors - donors, INGOs, and multi-stakeholder initiatives, among others - can encourage their emergence, see our new policy brief, now available here.


About the author

Michael Moses is Director of Advocacy & Programs, Global Integrity and Sue Soal is an independent facilitation consultant.

About this blog

This blog was also posted on the Global Integrity website
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