The term 'adaptive management' refers to adaptation that goes beyond the usual adaptation involved in good management - modifying plans in response to changes in circumstances or understanding, and using information to inform these decisions.
Adaptive management refers to an approach to managing under conditions of ongoing uncertainty which represents a paradigm shift from classic, linear approaches to planning, implementation and evaluation.
This approach to using information is needed when it is not possible to gather sufficient information at the planning stage to be able to make detailed plans. It involves deliberately taking actions in order to learn and adapt as needed under conditions of ongoing uncertainty.
Adaptive management has become increasingly relevant in response to rapidly changing situations, including the COVID-19 pandemic and is one of BetterEvaluation's current priority areas for content development and engagement.
Resources available on the BetterEvaluation knowledge platform include:
- our working papers which outline the different ways adaptive management has been developed and applied, including its origins in natural resource management and software development, and tools and methods
- links to organisations and initiatives focused on monitoring and evaluation for adaptive management - see below for links
- blogs discussing the issue with links to additional resources - see images below
Other initiatives focused on adaptive management include:
- The Doing Development Differently project by ODI (Overseas Development Institute), which includes a focus on iterative learning and the DDD Manifesto Community
- the 2016 report on ‘Adaptive Management: What It Means for CSOs (Civil Society Organisations) by Michael O’Donnell from BOND
- the USAID Learning Lab Learning Group on Complexity-Aware Monitoring, which explores monitoring innovations for adaptive management
- the Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation approach, developed by the Building State Capability group at the Centre for International Development, Harvard, which is based on four principles, including the principle of try, learn iterate, adapt
- the joint USAID DfID GLAM (Global Learning for Adaptive Management) which supports adaptive management in DFID and USAID programmes
- the Adaptive Development GoogleGroup which provides a threaded discussion list