Adaptive Programming for Empowerment and Accountability

There is much hype and attention given to new models of development programming that are iterative, adaptive and politically grounded – on the assumption and with the hope that they show greater promise than more traditional development approaches.

Evidence of how adaptive programming approaches with empowerment and accountability aims play out in fragile and conflict-affected contexts is, however, thin on the ground. There is more to explore in relation to how such approaches have been put into practice, what has worked and not worked, the underlying factors that enable their effective implementation, how they contribute to success, and the added value they provide.

This project responds to a a growing appetite for a stronger evidence base for these approaches from donors and practitioners alike, and a growing realisation that adaptive programming also necessitates external actors supporting the development of particular structures to enable the application of these approaches.

About the research project

This research project produced comparative case study evidence that explores experiences of DFID-funded programmes that are designed to use adaptive approaches to work on issues of empowerment and accountability. It looked at the challenges, opportunities and constraints that practitioners – and especially national frontline workers – face in delivering new, innovative, and politically grounded forms of governance programming. Engaging with practitioners throughout, it aimed to pose key questions about how both the evidence base and practice can be deepened in ways that take into account the realities of working in complex places.

Key contacts

Associate Researcher

Project details

start date
1 April 2017
end date
31 December 2018


In partnership with
Itad Oxfam

About this project


Recent work

Working Paper

Theories of Change for Promoting Empowerment and Accountability in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Settings

IDS Working Paper 499

This paper explores the current state of thinking among a range of aid actors (multilaterals, bilateral, applied scholars and international non-governmental organisations) on how to promote empowerment and accountability in fragile, conflict and violence affected settings.

21 November 2017