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Adaptive development, and doing development differently

Hero image description: Doing development differently © ODI 2017

To tackle today’s global development challenges, we need to move beyond the classic aid assumption that if only donor countries provide enough money and technical capacity, development problems will be solved. Development is a deeply political process. Those working in international development need to engage with social, political and economic dynamics, and the incentives that drive different actors.

This is not easy. Such a wider perspective calls for ways of working that focus on testing, adapting and learning in all areas of our research, be it work on justice, conflict, service provision or democracy. It requires liaising with reformers to identify, debate and refine problems, and being politically smart about how donors navigate diverse contexts.

This approach has many names: Adaptive Development, Thinking and Working Politically (TWP), Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA), and Doing Development Differently (DDD). Together, the labels represent a commitment to putting these ideas into practice and to changing the way international development is done. This commitment was reiterated when in 2015 we – along with more than 400 development thinkers and practitioners – signed the Doing Development Differently manifesto.

Since then, we have worked with donor agencies and frontline staff across the world, and generated important lessons about how to document and pass on lessons learned.

Key aims

  • Support projects, programmes and country portfolios that are seeking to work to the Doing Development Differently commitment.
  • Influence how the needs for results, evidence, value for money and aid effectiveness are interpreted.
  • Strengthen our embedded advisory support through critical reflection with donors and frontline staff.
  • Use documented case studies to better identify and disseminate lessons learnt.