Adaptive Management

Working Effectively in the Complexity of International Development

In the last few years, “Adaptive Management” (AM) and “complexity aware monitoring and evaluation and learning” have gone viral as new development catchwords. Networks of donors, practitioners and researchers, such as ‘Doing Development Differently’ and ‘Thinking and Working Politically’ and How Change Happens (HCH) have developed new thinking, explored current practice and are starting to propose new approaches that recognize that to be effective, international development programs need to address the complexity and unpredictability of the contexts in which we work.

This course offers a blend of grounded theory which helps us to understand the importance of complexity and contextual framing, the need for Adaptive Management, and its applications for international development programming. Presentations and discussions will help participants to gain insights about the benefits and limitations of mainstream M&E and results-based management tools, and to consider when and why Adaptive Management approaches, systems and tools are needed. Clinics will enable participants to bring their own dilemmas and challenges into the discussion and seek advice on ways forward. The course will map tools that can assist participants to grapple with complexity and to identify entry points/strategies, mechanisms and/or assumptions that need to be tested. The course will review selected M&E tools and management processes that support adaptive management and explore paths that participants can use to institutionalize AM practice in their own work.

Designed by practitioners for practitioners, this 5-day course uses clinics and discussions to help participants explore concepts and tools of Adaptive Management, and apply these to their own work experience, dilemmas, and challenges. The course was designed by international experts Pier Giorgio Ardeni, Duncan Green, Claire Hutchings, Irene Guijt and Andrea Wolfe. Duncan Green, Claire Hutchings and Irene Guijt are senior thought and practice leaders from Oxfam GB and will lead the week’s activities.

Program Dates

June 11 – June 15 (1 week)


Bologna, Italy


Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday
9:00am - 5:30pm

Application Deadlines

Early Review Deadline (International applicants must apply by this date): April 15, 2018
General Application Deadline: May 15, 2018

How to apply

Download the application form at this link
and return by email to:

Program Fees*

1,500 Euros (early review)
1,700 Euros (general application)


Students from developing countries may qualify for a partial tuition waiver, depending on the number of course participants.

*note that fees do not include travel, lodging, meals or visa and insurance

Learning Outcomes:

The courses are targeted to people who commission, manage or carry out PM&E:

  1. understand why Adaptive Management matters
    understand the key concepts, principles and practices of adaptive management and why it matters for complex development processes
  2. learn how to analyse a project or programme
    know how to use power and system analysis tools to critically assess the ability of a programme or project to be adaptive and achieve its goals
  3. lay the foundation for more adaptive practice
    have concrete ideas for a stronger learning- and agile management practice, inspired by complexity-aware MEL methods
  4. know how change the operating context to enable AM
    be able to identify leverage points for embedding adaptive management principles and practices in your own context.

Curriculum in Brief

Day 1: Introduction and Definition on Adaptive Management
Introduction to systems thinking and adaptive management as an approach to working on complex problems and / or in dynamic contexts. We will use case studies of diverse development programmes to explore the main characteristics of AM approaches, and identify the enabling factors that support or hinder its use and uptake. A project simulation exercise will help us to explore the ability of different groups ability to work with uncertainty, and when and how a more flexible approach to programming may be necessary. This will be a chance for the group to engage with foundational concepts, and bring their challenges, questions and examples into the room

Day 2: Design and Planning: Exploring Systems, Power and Stakeholder Mapping
Exploration of power as the underlying force field of development and social change, and the role of different stakeholders and stakeholder groups in change processes. On day 2, we will start to use tools that support a nuanced understanding and analysis of change processes. We will draw on the most up to date literature and Oxfam’s own practice to engage with different frameworks for understanding power (4 powers, power and gender, power cube) and consider stakeholder mapping as a form of power analysis. We will consider the implications for programming and influencing strategies – identifying how this can more systematically be integrated into design and implementation.

Day 3: Implementing: Managing Collaborative and Iterative Programmes and Activities
Adaptive Management in practice, exploring the implications for agile implementation. Adaptive management is a ‘learn by doing’ approach. It is about agile programme implementation built around a cycle of analysis, design, monitoring, review and adaptation as appropriate. It is not a formula, but relies instead on being able to set out a clear hypothesis for engagement and a good understanding of the information needed to understand if things are playing out as expected and what, if any, changes may be needed. Day 3 will look at how to design and manage collaborative and iterative programmes. We will begin to identify characteristics of M&E tools and approaches that support informed adaptations and course corrections.

Day 4: Integrating Complexity-aware Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning
An exploration of the different M&E tools, methods and approaches that are particularly amenable to adaptive management. We will explore a few key methods in depth (for example, Outcome Mapping and Outcome Harvesting; After Action Reviews, Learning Reviews, Developmental Evaluations), working through what’s involved in using them, when they might be appropriate and the relative utility of each. We will use student examples and/ or challenges to work through how we might put them into practice.

Day 5: Institutionalizing Adaptive Management - Making the Case for AM to Leaders and Peers
Applied learning. We will use our final day together to accompany and coach participants through a process of analyzing and mapping their own environments – be they programme challenges, or institutional opportunities – looking at who are the drivers/ blockers (actual or potential) of adaptive management, and designing a strategy for adoption of AM approaches.
We will schedule some flexible time that we can draw on as we tailor the week to the participants, allowing us dive into more depth as the week’s conversations demand.

Using case studies, clinics and discussion:

We ask applicants to share questions, examples, challenges one month before the course starts so that our instructors can tailor the course, making discussion and group work exercises to help participants in applying learning in real time. Participants should send case studies or issues for consideration with their applications or at latest, by May 15

Staff and Instructors

Our instructors are diverse and moving practitioners with a combined 100+ years of professional experience.

Pier Giorgio Ardeni

The Director of the Summer Programme is Pier Giorgio Ardeni. Pier Giorgio is a full professor of Political Economy and Development Economics and teaches Development Economics (undergraduate courses) and International Development Economics (graduate courses). Pier Giorgio Ardeni has extensive experience with monitoring and evaluation, poverty assessments and poverty statistics in various countries, as well as with nation-wide household surveys. He has more than 20 years of experience as advisor/consultant in developing and transition countries in statistical development and capacity building projects, household surveys, PRSPs and MDG indicator monitoring and evaluation, policy advice. He has been an advisor for OXFAM, the World Bank, the Department for International Development (DFID)of the UK Government, the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida), the International Development Cooperation of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and for several development assistance programmes funded by the European Commission in several countries like: Afghanistan, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Mali, Mexico, Mozambique, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Yemen. Currently, he is the President of the Foundation Research Institute "Carlo Cattaneo" based in Bologna.

Duncan Green

Duncan is Professor in Practice in International Development at the London School of Economics, honorary Professor of International Development at Cardiff University and Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Development Studies. He is author of How Change Happens (Oxford University Press, 2016) and From Poverty to Power: How Active Citizens and Effective States can Change the World (Oxfam International, June 2008; second edition 2012, forthcoming). His daily development blog can be found on Duncan is currently a Senior Strategic Adviser at Oxfam GB, where he was formerly Head of Research.
He was previously a Visiting Fellow at Notre Dame University, a Senior Policy Adviser on Trade and Development at the Department for International Development (DFID), a Policy Analyst on trade and globalization at CAFOD, the Catholic aid agency for England and Wales and Head of Research and Engagement at the Just Pensions project on socially responsible investment.
He is the author of several books on Latin America including Silent Revolution: The Rise and Crisis of Market Economics in Latin America (2003, 2nd edition), Faces of Latin America (2006, 3rd edition) and Hidden Lives: Voices of Children in Latin America and the Caribbean (1998).

Claire Hutchings

Claire is Head of Programme Quality for Oxfam GB, where she provides strategic leadership on efforts to define and develop the systems, capacity and culture required to drive higher quality programming and learning. Prior to taking on leadership of Programme Quality, Claire was Head of Evaluation & Effectiveness, and worked for more than 10 years in evaluation - advocacy evaluation and the evaluation of 'Hard to Measure Benefits' in particular. Claire continues to hold responsibility for Oxfam's portfolio of impact evaluations, and lead efforts to test and refine a qualitative research methods such as process-tracing - exploring how to reach credible conclusions on the effectiveness of Oxfam's small n interventions working to contribute to policy change and good governance outcomes.
In addition to numerous panels and conference presentations, Claire was keynote speaker at the 2016 European Evaluation Society Conference, has lectured at LSE and the Blavatnik School of Government, and has published a number of articles including "Balancing accountability and learning: a review of Oxfam GB’s global performance framework" in the Journal of Development Effectiveness, as a follow up to the 3ie working paper she co-authored with Karl Hughes in 2011, entitled "Can we obtain the required rigour without randomisation?". She is a keen advocate of 'fit for purpose' investments in evaluation and evidence generation more broadly, and has spoken frequently on the trade-offs involved in taking a more utilisation focused approach to evaluation.
Claire's background is in Human Rights. Prior to joining Oxfam, Claire worked with local NGOs in India on rights based approaches to natural resource management, and in Western Canada with Aboriginal Groups engaged with rights and title cases.

Irene Guijt

Irene is currently head of Oxfam’s research team. She previously worked for 25 years in rural development, natural resource management, collective action and social justice. She is a keen advocate for making the less heard voices more audible and influential. Recent work includes pioneering the SenseMaker® stories-at-scale approach in international development for (impact) evaluation in East Africa, Latin America and Asia on issues including girls' empowerment, inclusive business, accountable democracy, water service delivery, and youth leadership. She currently leads Oxfam GB's Research Team, which uses evidence to influence economic, environmental, and social justice.
Irene has been active in global evaluation capacity building through BetterEvaluation (recently on inspiring more participatory work in evaluation) and working on theory of change for transformational development with Hivos. She has pushed debates on the politics of evidence as co-convenor of the Big Push Forward, including co-editing the book The Politics of Evidence and Results.
Irene worked at the International Institute for Environment and Development from 1990 to 1998. She was a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University between 1996 -1998 and 2013-2015. She has co-hosted the annual 'M&E on the Cutting Edge' series for 6 years, including themes on complexity and on responsible innovation. She is a Research Associate for the Overseas Development Institute. Irene holds a BSc and MSc in land and water use engineering from Wageningen University and Research Centre, the Netherlands. Her PhD focused on small-scale producers in Brazil. She examined how messy partnerships among civil society, government and research can lead to learning and innovation when seeking transformational change in food systems.

Andrea B. Wolfe

Andrea Wolfe is a Senior Associate of the Center for International Development of the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy. She has more twenty-five years of experience in designing and implementing international governance projects, as a project director, advisor, M&E specialist and evaluator. She has worked overseas as team leader (Chief of Party, Mozambique), technical advisor for large projects to support devolution and local governance (DFID and USAID Kenya), and has been technical lead on parliamentary development and civil society strengthening projects in Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, Bosnia and Herzegovina (EU, DFID, USAID, and OSCE) and for Elections (Mozambique, Carter Center). Her consulting assignments include M&E team leader and institutional assessment team leader for projects in Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Haiti, Malawi, Mozambique, Nepal, Kenya and Vietnam. Andrea has been collaborating with the University of Bologna and the CID-SUNY to design and deliver the International Summer School on Monitoring and Evaluation since 2006.

Institutional Partners

This is the 13th annual season of the Monitoring and Evaluation Professional Summer Training Programme for Development Experts and Practitioners. Over the years, the programme has been jointly promoted by the Centre for International Development (CID Bologna), the University of Bologna Department of Economic Sciences (DSE-Unibo), the Cattaneo Institute Research Foundation and the Center for International Development at the State University of New York (CID-SUNY).

Location – Bologna, Italy

Bologna is a medieval university town in northern Italy. Bologna is a city of contrasts. It is the home of Europe’s oldest university, established in 1088, yet the city maintains a youthful spirit, rife with students, concerts, political activism and chic to simple bars. It is legendary for its traditional cuisine, but is home to some of Italy’s most innovative and trendy restaurants. It is also less touristy than more famous Italian cities (like nearby Venice or Florence), which lends itself to a more authentic experience.