Why adaptive management will not save us: Exploring management directives' interaction with practice
Number of pages
SourcePublic Administration and Development, 40, 2, (2020), pp. 129-140
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ RSCR CAOS
Public Administration and Development
SubjectAnthropology and Development Studies
Sparked by the critique of practitioners and academics on the excessive managerialisation of development project management, the donor community turns increasingly towards adaptive management approaches. Rather than examining the effectiveness of the new adaptive management trend, the article deals with the more fundamental question of how the underlying relationship between management frameworks and practice can be characterised. To this end, the article analyses the practices of a select number of Dutch Civil Society consortia that are working with a new adaptive management framework. Making use of a practice theory approach, the analysis finds that rules are not directly translated into practice. The presented rules (innovations) are always mediated by antecedent practice, shared histories and interactions amongst individuals, communities and artefacts. Notably, the flexibility provided for in the framework does not reach all links in the aid chain equally and is counterbalanced by the institutional realities of the aid system. The article therewith adds to the literature on everyday development management cautioning against overestimating the effects of management tools, as they operate within and are determined by the funding and accountability requirements of the larger aid regime.
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