Introducing the Adaptation Framework: A Guide for the Global Exchange of Innovation

July 01, 2015Christina Synowiec

This post was orginally posted on the Center For Health Market Innovations Blog

We at Results for Development (R4D) are excited to share with you a new way of thinking about how to approach the adaptation of innovation and facilitate the spread of promising practices to improve the lives of the poor around the world. Through our extensive work in health, education, and broader development, we have become keenly aware of the need for new approaches that create system-level change and diffuse promising components of program models beyond what we can accomplish by scaling one or two organizations.

The challenge we want to address

Many organizations and individuals want to find and adapt relevant promising practices from others, but few programs are replicable in their entirety. What appears to be missing is a way to connect the dots, a tool to move beyond traditional ways of thinking about innovation as linked to a program as a whole and instead, begin to think about how to isolate the active ingredients – or the program attributes core to achieving the programs’ outcomes. Few programs are replicable in their entirety, so how can we answer the question – what are the aspects of the programs that can be isolated and analyzed for adaptation to address a similar problem in a different context?

Our new approach

Within this context, R4D’s Center for Health Market Innovations (CHMI), with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), has developed a series of tools for audiences interested in innovation adaptation: the Adaptation Framework for Global Exchange of Innovation, designed to provide flexible and adaptable guiding principles for identifying program activities transferrable to other contexts, and the Active Ingredients Guidebook, an accompanying report that includes a list of U.S. health system challenges and root causes, sample active ingredients for consideration, and an illustrative case study. This collaboration builds on CHMI’s extensive knowledge of promising innovations that improve the quality and accessibility of healthcare for the poor in LMICs, and is now being applied in our broader innovation portfolio in other sectors (e.g., education). The Adaptation Framework guides users to crack the program open and look at the core program attributes crucial to achieving the program’s outcomes – what we call the “active ingredients”. By isolating the active ingredient, the analysis focuses on the core elements essential to the program’s success. The ultimate goal is to find a set of active ingredients that can be adapted to address similar problems in different contexts. In this new model, programs serve as inspiration to ultimately identify the active ingredients that make them successful.

Our hope is that these new products can serve as a global public good and as a starting point to guide those searching for innovative solutions to some of the world’s toughest development challenges. We also hope that this work can help build the momentum for transferring and adapting innovations more universally. The project originally began with a focus on sourcing innovations for the U.S. health system, but user feedback quickly demonstrated that there is utility in applying this Framework in other contexts as well, including within one country, across borders, and within and across sectors. The approach places learning opportunities directly in the hands of decision-makers and promotes the adaptation and uptake of “what works”. We ultimately want to inspire a new conversation about how to do development differently and more effectively.

We encourage you to use, test and improve on these tools. Along with this introduction, we include examples of how others are applying the framework in their own work, including:

We welcome your feedback on these new tools and want to hear from you about how these can be useful to you in your work and how they can complement similar new ways of thinking you and others may be developing. This work will continue to influence our strategy and approach across R4D, and we look forward to sharing further updates as we progress.

For more information, please contact Christina Synowiec at

Photo Credit: ASER Centre

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