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Designing projects in a rapidly changing world: embedding resilience, adaptation and transformation

Guidelines for embedding Resilience, Adaptation Pathways and Transformation Assessment (RAPTA) into project design

Authors: Deborah O’Connell, Nick Abel, Nicky Grigg, Yiheyis Maru, James Butler, Annette Cowie, Samantha Stone-Jovicich, Brian Walker, Russ Wise, Alice Ruhweza, Leonie Pearson, Paul Ryan, Mark Stafford Smith

Collaborating partners: Scientific Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC), Australian Resilience Centre (ARC)

Report links:

RAPTA Guidelines for project design

Background document: Resilience and adaptation pathways: from theory to application

Summary

The Resilience, Adaptation Pathways and Transformation Assessment (RAPTA) Guidelines (version 1.0) are :

  • about how to make key interventions in the system…
  • informed by the concepts of resilience, adaptation, and transformation
  • to be used in an intentional way…
  • in order to move towards sustainability goals (e.g. Sustainable Development Goals).

Background

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.

In response, many governments and non-government organizations, industries, businesses, programs and policies as well as civil society are now embodying the concepts of resilience, adaptation, transformation and sustainability within their aspirational development goals. For example, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Convention on Biological Diversity, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification and donors funding environment and development projects all encourage investment in resilience, adaptation and transformation.

The challenge now is to make operational the concepts of resilience, adaptation, transformation and sustainability, and embed them into the design of development programs and projects. However, there is little universal agreement about what these concepts mean, how to identify suitable actions and design projects to deliver them.

These concepts are not a set of scientific theories that can be developed and tested in controlled conditions. There are no “off the shelf” tried-and-tested recipes. Each context requires a tailored approach, which must be flexible and able to adapt to novel, uncertain and rapidly changing circumstances.

In response, we have developed the Resilience, Adaptation Pathways and Transformation Assessment (RAPTA) Framework to help project designers and planners build the ideas of resilience, adaptation and transformation into sustainable development projects from the start. This will help to ensure outcomes that are practicable, valuable and sustainable through time and change. It was developed especially for meeting challenges around the future security of agriculture and the world food supply but applies equally well to planning for climate change adaptation, urban development, disaster management, conservation and other vital fields.

This approach supports the design of actions which can help to guide linked social and ecological systems into the future, informed by sound science, underpinned by a structured learning process to gather and analyse evidence, followed by continual adjustment of actions based on what has been learned.

Who is RAPTA for?

The RAPTA guidelines package our learnings and experience to offer practical advice to planners, project managers, policy makers, donors, farmers, researchers and other stakeholders on how to design sustainable development projects.

Would you like more information?

Linked concepts: Resilience, Adaptation, Transformation and Sustainability

Why do we need RAPTA?

What is RAPTA?

Where to next with RAPTA?