This policy and design lessons paper outlines key lessons about institutional preparedness, design, and implementation of interventions that seek to bridge real-time data systems and adaptive management principles. It draws on a year-long research program including literature reviews, key informant interviews, and case study research in Indonesia and Tanzania.
It is written for policy makers and practitioners who have the capacity and resources to decide if, when, and how to integrate real-time data systems and adaptive programs. The paper is intended as a guiding resource for these stakeholders. We have aimed to keep it as practical and accessible as possible. Information is organized into ten lessons in three categories: 1) how to institutionally and strategically prepare for the process of bridging real-time data and adaptive management, 2) how to design data processes and systems, and 3) how to ensure the use of data in different levels of decision making.
Many factors—including individual and organizational capacity, data quality, the political context in which programs work, and the culture and leadership surrounding data—shape how well real-time data can be integrated with adaptive management processes. Our overarching finding is that there is potential value in aligning the two areas more closely, because each seems to address a need of the other. Real-time data initiatives rarely factor in the social-political, cultural, and managerial considerations that are critical to their use in decision making; and programs utilizing adaptive management rarely have granular, disaggregated, time series data that can be used to apply different strategic approaches and adaptations. For this integration to take place effectively, however, appropriate enabling conditions and resources must be in place.
This integration should not be seen as a silver bullet to resolve the challenges of more adaptive and rigorous development programs—but rather as a new, unexplored, and potentially valuable addition to the toolkit for delivering better development outcomes through knowledge, information, and data.