Feedback Labs July 21, 2016

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Great things can happen at the frontier of theory and practice. When Feedback Labs worked with USAID’s Global Development Lab to bring together leaders in adaptive management at the White House on June 15th, we were pleased that we were able to move past the ongoing conceptual conversations toward discussing what we could do in concrete terms to implement adaptive management in practice. The group decided to form a Practical Adaptation Network (PAN), and on July 20th they came together again to form ‘Sprint Teams’ that will, over the next 100 days, tackle the barriers that stand in the way of adaptive, inclusive management in development.

PAN has three objectives: (1) to develop a network among key staff in organizations whose roles are critical for the adoption and practical implementation of adaptive, and agile management; (2) to convene senior leaders that can champion the practice of adaptive management in their organizations; and (3) to help technical staff and senior leaders across organizations better understand each other’s circumstances and opportunities related to adaptive management.

Thirty-seven representatives from 24 organizations joined us to launch the PAN Sprint Relay process on July 20th. The organizations spanned implementing NGOs, donor agencies, academic advisors, representatives of the White House and the private sector. Every representative has joined PAN because they all see the need for more agile, inclusive practices in international development. They have been active champions, finding ways to encourage and enable more agile practices within their organizations. Many of them have been working in relative isolation from other agencies, and see in PAN an opportunity to come together with champions from other organizations that are focused not on talking, but on doing.

Each Sprint Team is composed of members from at least 2 different organizations, and they have each committed to producing a tangible deliverable within 100 days that moves us closer to adaptive, agile and inclusive practices in development. The six Sprint Teams and their Chairs are:

  1. HR Recruitment & Retention. Chair: Lauren Woodman, NetHope
  2. IDA18. Chair: Alan Hudson, Global Integrity
  3. Linkages between Networks. Co-chairs: Alan Hudson, Global Integrity and Dave Algoso, Consultant
  4. Using Digital Technologies. Chair: Dykki Settle, PATH
  5. Management & Leadership. Co-chairs: Kristi Ragan, DAI and Dayna Brown, Consultant
  6. Sense-making and Feedback Loops. Co-chairs: Myles Smith, Internews and Liz Peloso, PATH

Over the next few weeks the Sprint Teams will refine and decide on their deliverable! If you are interested in contributing to a Sprint Team, please contact us at [email protected] and we will put you in contact with the relevant Sprint Team Chair.

Each Sprint Team will be guided by the Sprint Relay process developed by Feedback Labs and the Rapid Results Institute. The concept of adapting based on feedback is baked into the Sprint Relay process, which is defined by 5 principles:

  1. Self-starting Teams: Sprint Teams arise out of member conviction that they will be useful and produce results. Sprint Teams determine their own deliverables. Feedback Labs provides the track to run on, but it’s up to Sprint Team members to run fast.
  2. Tangible Batons: Sprint Teams must produce something tangible that spurs and enables future action. The purpose of a Sprint is to create a concrete product, not just a series of conversations. Sprint Team members don’t participate in a Sprint to talk, they’re there to get somewhere!
  3. Irreversible Momentum: Sprint Teams should choose their deliverable with an eye to making it difficult for their agencies and the sector to revert back to the old status quo. Deliverables should act like a ratchet, preventing the system from sliding back.
  4. Speed over Precision: Each Sprint will last no longer than 100-days. Running fast – not producing perfect products – will be a hallmark of Sprint Teams.
  5. Adaptive Running: Sprint Teams will apply the principles of adaptive implementation during their 100-day Sprint: experiment and iterate; make small bets; fail early and often (teams can fail 99 times in 100 days and still succeed in their Sprint)!

At the end of their 100 day Sprints, the Sprint Teams will hand their deliverable off to a new Sprint Team that will run for a further 100 days. In this way, each individual Sprint will build and iterate upon the ones that have gone before. While each individual Sprint will only address small parts of a larger problem, successive and iterative Sprints joined in a relay will create ever stronger and more comprehensive solutions to the barriers that stand in the way of adaptive, inclusive development.


PAN is led by USAID and Feedback Labs, in collaboration with IDS, ODI and Reboot.


The following organizations have participated in PAN:

  • Catholic Relief Services
  • Feedback Labs
  • Global Integrity
  • Global Delivery Initiative
  • Institute of Development Studies
  • Internews
  • Mercy Corps
  • NetHope
  • Overseas Development Institute
  • Rapid Results Institute
  • Reboot
  • Results for Development Institute
  • Rockefeller Foundation
  • Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative
  • Voto Mobile
  • White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
  • World Bank
  • World Vision, Int

Stay tuned for more details on the genesis of PAN, its growing collaborative network, and where we see it heading. Thanks to our partners at the USAID Global Development Lab for the support on this post.

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