Environmental Incentives
Environmental Incentives

Adaptive Management and Learning

Increasing effectiveness through experience

When it comes to managing complex and dynamic natural systems, decision-makers must often take management actions 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.


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.

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 moving forward. Building in systematic opportunities for reflection and soliciting input from a wide variety of stakeholders enables project teams to analyze and process what has been learned to make informed decisions.



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.

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 their biodiversity investments

As part of the USAID Measuring Impact project, we recently 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 completely revamp its procurement design that will guide future programming, monitoring, evaluation and learning.


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 3rd 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

Shelly Hicks
International Conservation Practice

Chad Praul
Water Practice

Erik Anderson
Wildlife & Land Practice

Brittany Ajroud
International Conservation Practice