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Adaptive Planning in Monitoring and Evaluation

Adaptive planning is an important element of good Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning practices. However, what is adaptive planning and how should we engage in it?

What is Adaptive Planning?

adaptive planning, evaluation
Woman wondering about adaptive planning

Adaptive planning is about learning from previous experiences and using these lessons to improve future practices. Adaptive planning is all about flexibility and adjusting activities to account for emerging circumstances. This is especially true in conflict environments and complex situations where there are changes in assumptions, risks, social and economic context.

As the name suggests, adaptive planning acknowledged that plans are not developed once, but are adapted as changes arise. These changes usually occur during the implementation of a project.

Types of Changes

Adaptive planning requires a process to manage changes. However, not all changes are the same and require the same type of responses. It is important to differentiate the changes to the plans based on the level it occurs in the results chain.

· Small changes - input and activity level. Plans can be modified to respond to small changes, for example, a change in the dates, participants, or duration of a capacity building session, with minimal or no effect on the budget. Changes can be approved by the project or program manager.

· Medium changes – outputs and short-term outcome level. Plans will require an analysis to identify the impact of the changes and ensure they are properly approved in case additional funds or time is required; on some occasions, it may need a revision of the results framework. For example, changes in assumptions require changes in the instruction material for a capacity building session. These changes can be approved by the program manager or steering committee, especially if there is a need for some additional budget.

· Large changes Intermediate Outcome and Impact level. This type of change can occur when a significant event has occurred and may have a direct impact on the project objectives, it will also require a revision of the original Theory of Change. For example, a crisis may make some of objectives of the project irrelevant making it necessary to re-evaluate the design of the project and obtain approval from senior management.

The Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MLE) system should have a tracking mechanism in place to document these changes. For every change, it is important to document and analyze the type of change and corrective actions. This will ensure that all changes contribute to the success of the project and that everyone involved in the project is aware of the changes. References:

UNDP Results-based Handbook

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​​​Ann-Murray Brown

Monitoring, Evaluation and
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