New study assesses the application and use of adaptive management in Education Out Loud

Malene Aadal Bo
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Photo: Emmanuel Museruka
To better support the grantees in applying Adaptive Management as a method to improve management and implementation of projects, the Regional Management Unit for Eastern and Southern Africa (HESA) has undertaken a study assessing how grantees understand and use the method.

Implementing a project involves dealing with uncertainties, complexities, and unpredictable situations. Adaptive management provides a structured approach to managing these challenges by promoting learning, experimentation, and continuous adjustment of management strategies.

“However, its application is not always straightforward, and there are challenges associated with its implementation. The study assessed the grantees' understanding of adaptive management and helped identify areas of strength and weakness in adaptive management practices in the context of the HESA region,” says Fotouh Younes from Arab Network for Civic Education who has been leading the research.

Three main findings

The study found that all included program teams have a high level of understanding and appreciation of Adaptive Management, less so though among finance and admin staff which is a weakness as most adaptions also have financial implications.

Another finding was that adaptive management is generally effectively applied, but that many organizations are struggling to systemize it. Rather than being a tool also for scenario planning or a risk mitigation factor, it is mainly used in a reactive manner - as a response to emerging needs or changes in context.

Thirdly, the study stressed that the use of adaptive management has already provided valuable opportunities – sometimes unexpected - for learning and capacity-building among grantees, stakeholders, and partners, which is one of the main reasons for EOL management to endorse it.

“I am happy to learn, that grantees are both applying and appreciating Adaptive Management as a method. Reality is not a fixed phenomenon and projects like those in education advocacy have a stochastic, continuous, nonlinear, iterative tendency. This makes ability to adapt inevitable if we must realize results with significant impact,” says Nickson Ahimbisibwe from the Regional Management Unit in HESA.

High level of openness

He finds it very positive, that the EOL Horn, East and Southern Africa (HESA) Regional Management Unit, according to the study, is perceived to have a culture of openness where grantees feel comfortable sharing their opinion and ideas regarding project design or implementation of the EOL project – and that the program itself is viewed as “very flexible”.

“We have actively worked to enable an open and trustful cooperation within the project, as we believe this to be key for a successful and impactful implementation. Next step is to use this foundation and the learning from the study to further improve the application of adaptive management,” Nickson Ahimbisibwe says.

Based on the study, Fotouh Younes and her team has given their recommendations on how to start this process by e.g., highlighting and sharing success stories and case stories, to ensure capacity building for all and not least finance and admin staff. They also recommend to consider introducing adaptive management not as an add on methodology but as a core tool for project planning and reporting.

Read more about the study in this summary

What would you suggest to further apply adaptive management in a meaningful way?
Please share inputs or ideas with Nickson Ahimbisibwe,