On the road to adaptive management: share how

Adaptive management icon

The concept of adaptive management has been embraced by market systems development practitioners. Fast, iterative learning and the ability to react to changing circumstances are critical to ensure that programmes remain effective. Yet, despite the buzz around adaptive management, many programmes face challenges in reaching an adaptive ideal.

Following our 2016 report on adaptive management we wanted to know about your insights on doing adaptive management. We ran a series of blogs inviting contributions on emerging good practice on some of the key recurrent challenges around the knowledge, tools, culture, leadership, and procurement and budgeting needed for adaptive management.

Here you can see a list of some of the great contributions we received. Below the blogs we have also listed the common challenges needed for adaptive management that the blogs focused on.

To access all BEAM Exchange articles and blogs on adaptive management visit our Resources page and click on the Adaptive management 'Theme' in the sidebar.

Emerging good practice blogs

Making the donor-implementer relationship more than a marriage of convenience
Karri Byrne

Theories for change or theories of change?
Mohd Fahad Ifaz

Four ways to increase experimentation in your theory of change
Jessica MacArthur

Creating an adaptive culture and speeding up the time it takes to adapt
Scott Merrill

Rapid experiments with a purpose: How Global Integrity uses theories of change to make small bets, learn, and adapt
Michael Moses

Nothin' but attitude: correcting the failure of leadership recruitment to get more effective and adaptive leaders
David Ratliff

How implementers can help donors be adaptive
Ian Randall

Right-sizing MRM for adaptive management experimentation
Leanne Rasmussen and Rachel Lock

Structured experimentation: getting at the core of adaptive management
Leanne Rasmussen and Rachel Lock

When contracts are not enough: adaptive management and private sector engagement
Kevin Robbins

Demigods in charge
Tim Stewart

Adaptive management challenges

We focused the blogs on a series of common challenges needed for adaptive management. 


  1. What is good practice in connecting operational staff to field realities?
  2. How do you increase the status of, or focus on, qualitative data in your work environment?
  3. How do you decide on appropriate budgets for informative and adaptive results measurement systems?


  1. How are you increasing experimentation in your theory of change?
  2. How are you developing/ enhancing the logframe as an accountability tool?
  3. How are you ensuring flexibility in logframe management?


  1. What are significant positive and negative leadership characteristics for adaptive management?
  2. How do you get the right team leaders in place for adaptive management, e.g. in recruitment, tendering…?

Culture and people

  1. How do you create an adaptive culture in a workplace?
  2. How do you deal with staff turnover?
  3. How do you improve communication and trust between donors and implementers?
  4. What methods do you have to ensure/ give confidence that programmes result measurement regimes are sufficiently robust?
  5. What institutional roles, such as regional advisers, support adaptive programming include and how do they do it?

Budgets and contracts

  1. How do you tender for adaptive programmes?
  2. What is good practice in using inception periods to provide programme flexibility?
  3. What innovations have you tried out in payment by results? What concerns do you have?
  4. How are you increasing programme budget flexibility?
  5. How are you moving beyond cutting down programme “overheads”? What is your thinking on programme vs overhead costs?
  6. How do you get contracts right to ensure flexibility and accountability?
  7. What contracting approaches do you use to effectively partner with the private sector?