The Resilience, Adaptation Pathways and Transformation Approach (RAPTA): A guide to designing, implementing and assessing interventions for sustainable futures

The Resilience, Adaptation Pathways and Transformation Approach (RAPTA)

Authors: Deborah O’Connell, Yiheyis Maru, Nicky Grigg, Brian Walker, Nick Abel, Russell Wise,Annette Cowie, James Butler, Samantha Stone-Jovicich, Mark Stafford Smith, Alice Ruhweza, Million Belay, Leonie Pearson, and Seona Meharg


The Resilience, Adaptation Pathways and Transformation Approach (RAPTA) is about

  • how to make robust interventions in systems…
  • informed by the science of resilience, adaptation, and transformation
  • applied in an intentional way…
  • to work out what parts of the system to keep the same, modify or transform; and how to change them…
  • in order to move towards sustainability goals (e.g. Sustainability Development Goals)
  • while the world is changing rapidly in novel ways and there is high uncertainty.

You can download the RAPTA version 2 guidelines here


Our world is changing at an unprecedented rate. We are uncertain about the nature and magnitude of many of these changes, and often cannot predict them.

A common response across sectors is to call for resilience, adaptation or transformation of systems from local to global scales. There is growing investment in activities aimed at building resilience, or enabling adaptation and transformative change, often with differing interpretations of these concepts and how projects, programs, policies or investment initiatives (collectively termed ‘interventions’) can deliver them. Off-the-shelf decision-making and planning processes such as strategic planning, risk assessment and stakeholder engagement processes were not designed to cope with this level of change and uncertainty, and new approaches are required to be effective and robust in these circumstances.

The Resilience, Adaptation Pathways and Transformation Approach (RAPTA) has been developed to design, implement and evaluate interventions for achieving sustainability goals within highly uncertain and rapidly changing decision contexts. The approach is readily tailored to meet different intervention needs, building on and challenging familiar design, implementation and evaluation processes from a systems perspective to put concepts of resilience, adaptation pathways and transformation to work. Outputs such as models or plans are valuable, however the processes of participating, appreciating new perspectives, and learning to design and implement agile and effective interventions are just as important.

Who is RAPTA for?

The key innovation of RAPTA is the synthesis of theory and practice across many research domains and communities of practice that commonly work quite disparately – for example in resilience thinking, climate adaptation and planning, disaster risk reduction and emergency management, international sustainable development.

The RAPTA guidelines package our learnings and experience to offer coherent practical advice to planners, project managers, policy makers, donors, farmers, researchers and other stakeholders on how to design interventions (policies, projects, programs, strategies and other types of decisions).

A brief history of development and piloting of RAPTA

The  RAPTA Guidelines (version 1) were developed for the Scientific Technical and Advisory Panel of the Global Environment facility. They were piloted in a range of projects, including designing food security projects in Ethiopia (funded by the Stockholm Resilience Centre’s GRAID Program, and the United Nations Development Program). You can read more about these pilots here.

Pilots in Ethiopia

There were also applied in a number of other projects before we took everything we had learned to create RAPTA version 2 guidelines.

Examples of applying RAPTA (version 1) in projects