Adaptive Programming Lessons for Business Environment Reform in Zimbabwe

BERF has concluded an Evidence and Learning Note which  provides lessons and prioritised recommendations for DFID Zimbabwe on how to support business environment reform using an adaptive programming approach. The Note was prepared for BERF by consortium partner, the Law and Development Partnership.

Using lessons from five previous or on-going DFID business enabling environment programmes – Centre for Inclusive Growth in Nepal, Facility for Oil Sector Transparency and Reform II, Legal Assistance for Economic Reform, Private Sector Development Programme in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and State Voice & Accountability Initiative in Nigeria – BERF provided evidence which can be applied to the design and implementation of DFID Zimbabwe’s new Business Environment Reform programme. This second phase is expected to come on stream after the closure of the Zimbisa component of the Business Enabling Environment Programme at the end of 2017.

Adaptive programming is considered suitable for Zimbabwe’s complex and highly uncertain economic and political environment and is likely to present opportunities for DFID to support economic reform. But it will require working in a politically aware and adaptive manner; tracking changes, rapidly reacting to opportunities for engagement and leveraging the political momentum for change.

BERF’s Evidence and Learning Note observes that adaptive programming will support this kind of approach as it informs how DFID Zimbabwe can design, deliver, manage and oversee the programme so that there is a conscious and systematic effort throughout the programme cycle to learn and adapt in response. Adaptation needs to take place in real time and embrace both strategic aspects (including theories of change, results frameworks, and approaches) and operational details (e.g. systems, tools, resources, budgets).

 Main Lessons

Three key overall lessons emerged from the evidence report: 

·       There is there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to how adaptive programmes are designed. Some programmes reviewed in the evidence gathering tried to find ways to use conventional tools in a non-traditional way, while other programmes experimented with novel approaches. Each of these approaches presented its own benefits and drawbacks.

·       An adaptive programme design does not automatically deliver an adaptive programme. To achieve this, learning and adaptability need to be built into every stage of the programme cycle.

·       Adaptive programming entails cost: on-going adaptation, re-programming and re-budgeting takes time and requires high levels of supplier and DFID engagement.

In addition to the five Business Environment Reform programmes which were examined in some detail, the authors of report also reviewed four other DFID programmes – Economic Policy Incubator of Accelerating Private and Public Investment in Infrastructure in Nepal, Building Effective and Accessible Markets (Beam Exchange), Strengthening Uganda’s Anti-Corruption and Accountability Regime in Uganda, and Strengthening Action Against Corruption in Ghana.

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