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Community Contribution

Context Analysis and Flexible Partnership in South and Central Syria

Ashley Proud

Mercy Corps’ South and Central Syria program supports local nongovernmental and community-based organizations to provide food assistance and non-food items; water, sanitation, and hygiene; livelihoods support; and limited activities in child protection and education. As traditional tools and processes for managing programs proved inadequate to address the challenges of these complex and volatile environments, we took advantage of the opportunity to create agile systems and think strategically in Syria.

CLA Approach

  • CLA in Implementing Mechanisms: Our agile response in emergencies was due to early recognition that Mercy Corps’ standard procedures were often unworkable in the Syrian context. This led us to adapt financial and compliance processes and develop robust alternatives, such as a matrix of supporting documentation, to work with partners to identify what is feasible.
  • Adaptive Management: Our adaptive process of learning and evolution has created a space for the program team to work in ways that were appropriate to the context, quickly responding to partner needs with clear answers while understanding when and how to escalate issues for headquarters or donor approval.
  • Decision-Making: The team’s clear understanding of its decision-making authority has helped partners understand their latitude for rapidly responding to contextual shifts and emerging needs.

Lessons Learned

  • Having the flexibility to act on findings that demonstrate a need for dynamic and collaborative teams, appropriate data and reflective analysis, responsive decision making and action, agile and integrated operations, and trusting and flexible partnerships.


  • Mercy Corps’ flexibility has allowed the team inside Syria to react rapidly. As we continue to apply learning and understanding of the Syrian context, we ensure impact by continually adapting processes, such as our flexible financial approvals, according to feedback from partners.

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