Environmental Incentives
Environmental Incentives

Adaptive Management and Learning

Increasing effectiveness through experience

When it comes to managing complex and dynamic natural systems, decisionmakers must often take action while facing a high degree of uncertainty. Institutional and social norms create barriers to adapting to new and changing circumstances, which can prohibit continual improvement and conservation success. Organizations that build adaptive management strategies into their programs allow teams to make real-time adjustments and incorporate learning, increasing the likelihood of achieving long-term conservation goals.


posted notes on a board displays how adaptation works

A good theory of change can guide adaptation

Making explicit assumptions and hypotheses about your context and expected change, and testing these, is central to the adaptive process. A theory of change is a useful tool to help teams articulate and graphically illustrate the assumptions informing their projects and programs that must be managed and tested over time.

reflecting on the beauty of lake tahoe

Building in time for reflection leads to better decision-making

Reflection is the process of digesting what has happened and determining what needs to change. Creating systematic opportunities for reflection and soliciting input from a variety of stakeholders enables project teams to analyze and process what has been learned to make informed decisions.



beekeeper explains the importance of adaptive management

Capacity building for adaptive management

Adaptive management requires effort. We simplify the process by working with clients to develop the skills and competencies needed for adaptive management and learning either at a project or institutional level.

conservationists monitoring changes in the environment

Monitoring and Learning Plan Design

We facilitate the design and implementation of robust monitoring, evaluation, and learning systems grounded in a project’s theory of change that promote action based on learning and evidence.



Building a foundation for USAID and its missions to adaptively manage biodiversity investments

Through the USAID Measuring Impact project, we assisted USAID’s South America Regional (SAR) Mission to undertake an evaluation of its environmental program, looking across its portfolio of existing activities and analyses of regional threats to the Amazon. Using an adaptive management process and evidence, SAR was able to revamp its procurement design to better guide future programming, monitoring, evaluation, and learning.

Lake in the Amazon


I’ve engaged with many conservation programs over the years and have found systematic obstacles to adjusting programs while effectively incorporating stakeholders. Developing concise, digestible, and meaningful annual project reports has also been a challenge. Environmental Incentives helped us design an effective and practical adaptive management process, with supporting tools like our annual findings and improvements report and performance report. We just completed our third annual round of improvements to the Conservation Credit System, and the improvements have significantly increased the effectiveness of our program, as well as the trust of key stakeholders."

Kelly McGowan, Sagebrush Ecosystem Program

Talk to Our Experts


Brittany Ajroud
Senior Associate


Erik Anderson
Senior Associate


Shelly Hicks
Adaptive Management Specialist Team Lead/ Measuring Impact II


Chad Praul