Designed to fail

How to design programmes to allow adaptive management

Published by
Springfield Centre

How to design programmes to allow adaptive management

The development world is abuzz with discussions about how ‘adaptive management’ is critical to more effective aid. Proponents argue that iterative but structured processes of decision making are needed if aid interventions are to deal with the uncertainty inherent in complex and dynamic systems. 

This paper agrees that adaptive management is vital. However it contends that aspirations to apply adaptive management within aid programmes are usually doomed before they can be put into practice. This is because of decisions made prior to, or during, programme design. 

Quite literally aid programmes are designed to fail. Every player in what has very clearly become an accountability game covers their professional and commercial behinds at the expense of good development.