Strategy testing: An innovative approach to monitoring highly flexible aid programs

Strategy Testing (ST) is a monitoring system developed by the The Asia Foundation to track programs that are using a highly iterative, adaptive approach to address complex development problems. This paper details when and how strategy testing is done and offers case examples and insights into using ST for reflection, reassessment and program adjustments as needed to increase the likelihood of achieving results when addressing complex, fluid and often intensely political problems.

This resource and the following information was contributed by Kaye Stevens.

Authors and their affiliation

Debra Ladner, The Asia Foundation

Year of publication


Type of resource

  • Example
  • Guide
  • Tool

Key features

This paper describes key features of the programs that Strategy Testing is designed to monitor. The challenges inherent in monitoring highly adaptive programs and their unique learning needs are discussed. The document includes a detailed explanation of the ST process and the tools used to facilitate and document ST discussions. Key insights and reflections on what a flexible program approach means in practice, using examples from a range of program initiatives in 10 countries are offered.

ST is a structured process for program teams to periodically reflect on the current situation, what they have learned during program implementation and whether the assumptions underlying program theories of change and strategies are still valid. Program strategies are adjusted as needed in response to reflections on new information, insights and shifts in context.

ST is an iterative process intended to drive as well as track the clarification and narrowing of program outcomes and strategies for achieving them. Building structured time for teams to reflect ST also supports program staff to adopt a more flexible, critical, entrepreneurial and adaptive mindset.

Who is this resource useful for?

  • Commissioners/managers of evaluation;
  • Evaluation users;
  • Evaluators;
  • Those involved in evaluation capacity strengthening;

How have you used or intend on using this resource?

Adaptive practice that may occur during the implementation of programs addressing complex problems is not always documented and widely communicated. ST is a useful process for enabling and documenting shared learning and flexibility in response to new understandings of the problem.

Why would you recommend it to other people?

This is a useful resource for planning and conducting structured reflective practice with teams addressing complex problems. 

Standard monitoring advice is to use monitoring information to periodically review and adjust the theory of change. This resource provides a step by step way of actually doing that. It has credibility because it is based in practice. The insights and reflections highlight some of the benefits and political and practical challenges involved. I like the section about the need for structure within flexibility (pages 14-15), which highlights the need for discipline and participation in the process, and includes the importance of documenting decisions.


Ladner, D. (2015). Strategy testing: An innovative approach to monitoring highly flexible aid programs. The Asia Foundation.

No votes yet
Rate this Resource:
A special thanks to this page's contributors
Resource Suggested By
Evaluation Specialist, Better Evaluation.
Gold Coast, Australia.
Resource Suggested By
Development evaluation consultant, Canberra.
Canberra, Australia.


There are currently no comments. Be the first to comment on this page!

Add new comment

Login Login and comment as BetterEvaluation member or simply fill out the fields below.