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Moving targets and going in circles

Itad's Julian Barr reflects on SAVI, BRACED, and flexible and adaptive programming in international development.


My procrastination has paid off. I have been meaning to write a short blog about one of the final knowledge pieces to come out of the SAVI programme (for more information have a look at SAVI’s website) in Nigeria, now that the programme has finished.

I was aiming to blog about a paper we have published, reflecting on what we have learnt about doing M&E in a long-running governance programme that has taken an adaptive and flexible approach. The paper is called Moving Targets, Widening Nets: monitoring incremental and adaptive change in an Empowerment and Accountability programme. My colleague Helen Derbyshire has been the main author of a blog on this paper on the Doing Development Different site, and I wanted to add something to that.

Well, in the meantime, while busily not writing my SAVI M&E blog, two things have happened:

First, we have started the next phase of SAVI in Nigeria – this is the ‘Engaged Citizens’ pillar of the Public Sector Accountability & Governance Programme. We are starting to scope and develop a ‘Learning and Adaptive Management Platform’. We want this to be a more structured approach to planning, testing, and reflecting on operational and technical experiments in improving governance. Early days, but our aim is to find a way to develop a system and put into practice the thinking in Chapter 11 of the 2015 World Development Report (Adaptive design, adaptive interventions), especially this schematic:


Second, I gave a webinar for the BRACED programme on adaptive management for complex problems, with a focus on M&E in programmes taking this approach. The webinar was titled Going Forwards in Circles. While this webinar has a range of ideas about doing M&E in programmes tackling wicked or complex problems, it doesn’t suggest we yet know all the answers.

The conclusion I reach from looking across these three recent activities is that M&E is critical to drive the learning and feedback loops that are central to adaptive programming. However, we are still learning about how to best facilitate this learning – we need an adaptive approach to M&E in adaptive programmes. It’s exciting to be involved in this evolving space!