Program Cycle

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ADS 201: Program Cycle Operational Policy

Two quick access produts were released along with the updated ADS:

ADS 201: Fact Sheet

ADS 201: Revisions to Program Cycle: Quick Guide


USAID's revision of the ADS involves more than changes in specific requirements, it calls for rethinking how development assistance is conceptualized. Drawing on its Local Systems Framework, USAID explains in the technical note below that appling systems thinking to development involves five dimensions, or the 5Rs: Results, Roles, Relationships, Rules and Resources.

The Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning (PPL) first introduced the Program Cycle in 2011 to improve the Agency’s ability to make decisions based on evidence to achieve more effective and sustainable results. PPL issued a revised policy in September 2016 in response to lessons learned and advances in the discipline of development. These revisions mark a major milestone in PPL’s ongoing efforts to elevate USAID as the world’s premier development Agency. A further update to ADS 201 was posted by the Agency on 3/23/17, and again on 6/11/2019.

USAID Program Cycle

The Program Cycle is codified in USAID’s Automated Directives System (ADS) Chapter 201. ADS 201 replaces the former ADS 200-203, thereby consolidating policy on planning, achieving, assessing and learning into one streamlined chapter. It also introduces a new section on activity design and implementation to address a gap in the previous policy. The new policy applies to all USAID Missions and clarifies those requirements that apply to Washington Operating Units (OUs).

The following principles are essential for good development and serve as the foundation for ADS 201. These principles also support successful implementation of the Program Cycle:

  • Apply analytic rigor: Make decisions about where and how to invest resources based on conclusions supported by evidence and analysis.
  • Manage adaptively: Support intentional ways to make adjustments in response to new information and context changes.
  • To learn continuously, making…adjustments
  • Promote sustainability: Generate lasting changes that can be sustained by local actors. Encourage local ownership with a focus on local priorities, resources, and implementation.
  • Utilize diverse approaches for increased flexibility: Use a range of modalities to address development challenges based on country context, needs and available resources. Allow customization to better meet mission needs on program size, staffing pattern, and context.

To help USAID implementing partners understand how the ADS has changed, the Agency produced the slide show below.

    Program Cycle Road Map >>




A toolkit developed and implemented by:
Office of Trade and Regulatory Reform
Bureau of Economic Growth, Education, and Environment
US Agency for International Development (USAID)

For more information, please contact Paul Fekete.

Last updated: July 12, 2021

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