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Community Contribution

The Refine and Implement Pilot: USAID Food for Peace’s Approach to Adaptable Mechanisms

Joan Whelan

USAID/Food for Peace’s pilot approach, Refine and Implement, builds a one-year refinement period into each activity. At the end of the year, we ask implementing partners to refine their theories of change and implementation planning to better respond to the opportunities and challenges in the local context.

CLA Approach

  • Continuous Learning & Improvement: We held a series of consultations with the implementing partner community to examine our annual request for development awards. The goal was to improve the requirements and guidance to facilitate stronger designs and more effective implementation by awardees.
  • Theories of Change, Scenario Planning: Our vision for Refine and Implement is that each awardee will use the activity inception period, along with other start-up activities, to consult with communities and validate proposed interventions, assumptions, and their overall theory of change; analyze the institutions, operating environment, and policies that might affect implementation and success; carry out formative research and the initial environmental examination; begin gender and market analyses; and note major shocks and stresses and how people are managing them.

Lessons Learned

  • Spending the extra time and effort to allow partners to refine their activities will far outweigh the challenges we will encounter over the next few years in implementing the approach.


  • Given the complex nature of the operating environments where the pilots are being carried out, it will be difficult to define success. We are trying to adopt more complexity-aware methods to monitor and document how awardees engaging differently with the local systems where they are working, the value of the knowledge they are gaining, and how they are applying such knowledge in making programmatic adjustments.

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