Adaptation and Reorientation: Looking to Lessons From the Past to Help Us Deliver in the Future

  • Date Posted: June 23, 2020
  • Authors: ILO The Lab
  • Document Types: Primer or Brief
  • Donor Type: Multilateral Organization


Photo: Owner of a grocery store in rural Zambia
Owner of a grocery store in rural Zambia. Photo Credit ILO Yapasa 2017

Fail, Recalibrate, Adapt, Achieve is a new Lab brief on Yapasa, an ILO-FAO project on agribusiness and youth employment in rural Zambia. The brief dives into Yapasa’s four and a half year journey, which included a series of early missteps and unforeseen events such as i) not one but two catastrophic draughts; ii) a weak business case and targeting strategy; iii) and the failure of the project’s delivery model due to a problematic choice of scope and partners.   

After falling flat in its first two years, Yapasa went back to the drawing board to recalibrate the project strategy and adapt to the changing context and the mistakes made. Together with external market system specialists, the project team analyzed the past and shaped a new way forward — reviewing the project from top to bottom, from its sectors to the partners it worked with, to the management of partnerships, and to the way data was collected and used. The process was slow and difficult, but in the end, Yapasa managed to make strategic recalibrations that addressed some key market constraints, supported over 14,000 rural businesses, and improved more than 5,000 jobs (2,000 of which were for youth).

Like Yapasa back then, many programs are now at a crossroads where they have to adapt their strategies and sometimes even change their entire delivery model to effectively respond to the emerging needs and challenges faced during this pandemic and recovery phase. Yapasa’s hard lessons which helped them become open to self-critique, pivot strategically, and use adaptive management, can be a blueprint to help other projects to ‘right the ship’ during the post-COVID-19 response.

Access the full brief on The Lab website to read or download.