Listening, learning & adapting: A strategy for uncertain times


Now is a strange time to be launching a strategy, but a strategy that prioritizes listening, learning, and adapting is perhaps a useful one to have in place during a period of peak uncertainty and challenges that are unprecedented in recent times.

Out today, our new strategy sets out our approach to enhancing the ability of governance reformers and change agents in countries and communities around the world to address challenges relating to corruption and the use of public resources.

Supported by Dave Algoso, we kicked off our strategy refresh process in September and shared the first draft for feedback in late January. By early March we were nearly done, but delayed publication to review systematically the implications of COVID-19 for our projects, our priorities, and our finances.

Our revised strategy is informed by a review of our work over the last five years (section 2 of our strategy), enriched by extensive feedback from partners around the world, and guided by a new statement of our vision, mission, and values (section 3).

At the heart of our strategy is a theory of change which doubles down on exploring the value of locally-led, learning-centered and adaptive development, and commits us to explore more systematically whether and how such approaches can shift the power dynamics and incentives that drive behavior and shape patterns of governance (section 4, and figure 1 below). Our theory of change provides a framework to focus our explorations on key assumptions and causal mechanisms.

Figure 1: Supporting partners to address corruption and improve the use of public resources



Driven by this theory of change, our revised strategy focuses on three thematic areas (section 5) that are central to ensuring that public resources are used effectively—Open Government; Integrity and Anti-Corruption; and Public Service Delivery—and sets out four strands of tailored support (section 6) that we provide to partners as they craft solutions to specific challenges relating to these thematic areas:

  • We conduct research to help partners understand governance challenges and opportunities
  • We provide strategy and implementation support to help partners set course, learn and adapt
  • We engage in network building to strengthen collaboration and learning across systems of partners
  • We engage in advocacy to improve the support other international organizations provide in-country partners.


In implementing our strategy we will be guided by operating principles (section 7) focused on people, partnerships and processes, with these principles intended to ensure that our ways of working are fully aligned with our vision, mission and values. By operating in this way, we will ensure that resources invested in our work add real value to those on the frontline of addressing governance-related challenges, maximizing our impact and theirs, and responding effectively to the challenges of funding and sustainability (section 8).

The next steps for us—in addition to regularly reviewing how the COVID-19 crisis might shape our work over the coming months and years—involve strengthening our capacity in four areas: listening and engagement; learning and communications; fundraising and business development; and managing resources and knowledge (section 9). A first step that we are excited to take is to hire a Director for Listening and Learning; details here.

Despite the global pandemic that emerged as we finalized our strategy, we are confident that it remains valid and relevant to the challenges that lie ahead. Indeed, we feel that our focus on supporting partners’ efforts to address specific challenges relating to corruption and the use of public resources, and our adaptive approach to doing that, has considerable application to many governance-related issues that the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted.

Let us know what you think about our strategy in the comments, or drop us a line to discuss whether and how we might be able to support your efforts to address corruption and improve the use of public resources. And watch this space for more on how we are responding with our frontline partners, to COVID-19 and the governance challenges it highlights.

Alan Hudson
Executive Director

6 comments on “Listening, learning & adapting: A strategy for uncertain times

  • Davel Patel says:

    A forward looking, inspiring and yet refreshingly honest strategy. Congratulations to the team for listening and learning from to its own evidence, for articulating a common-sense theory of change that speaks to the possibility of reaching new heights in governance, in practical and feasible ways.

  • Favour Simeon says:

    Indeed an adaptive strategy that brings together the people,processes and practices around evidence monitoring and response for better programming. Well done.

    • Alan Hudson says:

      Thanks Favour. Much appreciated. As ever, the proof will be in the implementation pudding! Watch this space to see how things work out.

  • Thanks Davel. We appreciate your feedback. There were certainly some challenges along the way, and will be many challenges with implementation, but we’re pleased with where we got to and excited about moving forward with implementation, in ways that take account of the drastically different context in which we are now working!


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