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Seven tools for creating adaptive policies

This paper introduces the concept of adaptive policy making for guiding policy-makers to incorporate the principles of sustainability into the decision-making process, when under complex, dynamic, and uncertain conditions. Adaptive policies are those that can adjust to a range of anticipated and unanticipated conditions, which can affect policy performance in the future.

The paper argues that policies which cannot continue to perform effectively under dynamic conditions, might not be able to achieve their proposed objectives and may result in being counter-productive (maladaptive policies). These policies might prove to be an impediment to the ability of individuals, groups, and stakeholders to cope with, or adapt to, changing conditions.

Through a review of policies within the agriculture and water sectors in India and Canada, the authors conclude that there are seven tools policymakers should follow to create adaptive policies:

  • using integrated and forward-looking analysis
  • monitoring key performance indicators to trigger built-in policy adjustments
  • undertaking formal policy review and continuous learning
  • using multi-stakeholder deliberation
  • enabling self-organisation and social networking
  • decentralising decision making to the lowest and most effective jurisdictional level
  • promoting variation in policy responses