Opportunities and challenges for DAC members in ‘adapting to context’ - Sharp and Wild (2021)


This paper looks at one of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee's (OECD-DAC) Guiding Principles on Managing for Sustainable Development Results (MfSDR) - 'adapt to context.' The paper focuses on perspectives from OECD-DAC members (as well as available literature and resources) on the issues and challenges they face in aligning with this principle. It sets out the challenges that providers of development co-operation describe and examples of the approaches they have taken to address each challenge. The paper notes that, in practice, it has been challenging for organisations to balance internal compliance with empowerment at ground level; and adapt implementation in the pursuit of long-term outcomes. The authors argue that reporting and evidence collection processes do not consistently encourage adaptive practice, reflecting their orientation towards accountability over learning. The paper suggests that context analysis is common during programme design but used less on an ongoing basis. It notes that popular tools – such as logical frameworks and theories of change - are often interpreted in linear ways, not as ‘living documents’ that react and change over time. The authors sugest that organisations need to meaningfully empower staff to work adaptively, including examining incentives and cultures that can make staff more comfortable with traditional results management.