Management Not Models
Adaptability, responsiveness, and a few lessons from football
Despite the large volume of critiques of logframes and other blueprint approaches to development over the last 30 years, most aid infrastructure continues to concentrate on the design and subsequent implementation of ‘closed' models. This article challenges the inflexibility of blueprint implementation, which is inadequate given the complex nature of social change. It proposes an alternative management and learning approach which enables implementation to be dynamic, adaptive, and responsive to problems and opportunities. Using the metaphor of a football team, Maclay emphasizes the need for "systems which allow us to adapt them so programs go forward." Key elements of success are
- ensure that the whole team aims at the same goal;
- adapt strategies and plays that respond to the evolving situation;
- learn from experience on the ground that channels back into planning and action;
- empower the whole team to learn, analyze and respond.
Emphasizing the role of donors in providing the TORs and support for this approach, the paper presents a case study of a donor-led program in Bangladesh that used this ‘emergent theory of change' approach in successfully alleviating poverty and empowering local NGOs with a powerful feedback tool, the Change Monitoring System.