Three Key Components
Adaptation looks different depending on whether an organization’s goal is to 1) create more resilient and sustainable programs by accommodating change, 2) scale a successful practice within a project, or 3) scale a practice that demonstrated success in one project to other projects. Rather than employ a static methodology, Syntegral’s methods and tools are organized around three mutually reinforcing components: those of strengthening adaptive capacity, elaborating of a dynamic theory of change and developing an adaptation agenda that links these two. Because programs vary enormously in terms of size, staffing, mandates and goals, Syntegral’s application of these components and their accompanying tools will be tailored to the needs of the program and its objectives.
As discussed in the section on Adaptive Capacity, Syntegral defines “adaptive capacity” as the ability to translate knowledge and critical thinking about complexity and adaptation into contextually-sensitive implementation behavior. As such, it will take different forms depending on the types of stakeholders engaged and programmatic needs.
Dynamic Theory of Change
Typically, theories of change and logical frameworks are touted for their ability to spell out how a project intends to meet its objectives. But while it is valuable to make initial assumptions clear, it may be more valuable to demonstrate that assumptions frequently change as new realities, information and learning make themselves felt as programs and practices take hold. Strengthened adaptive capacity is ultimately the goal of Syntegral’s approach, and it begins by assisting front-line implementers and mangers to adopt a more dynamic theory of change that anticipates both how and why the need for adaptation will arise in the program. Activities associated with this component center on providing training and practical application of key principles of complexity and adaptation as they relate to the programmatic objectives at hand. The principle products of a dynamic theory of change are co-constructed, practice-specific tools that will feed into the adaptation agenda.
Bridging a dynamic theory of change and the goal of strengthening adaptive capacity as suggested above is the component of an adaptation agenda—a concrete and practical roadmap that can guide the process of adaptation. It is important that this agenda be unobtrusive and easily applied to existing program management practices to accommodate adaptation within a project. Activities related to this agenda will use the tools developed as part of the dynamic theory of change to achieve the adaptive capacity needs associated with the program’s or practice’s objectives.