Programming Flexibility

Knowledge brokering01 Oct 2021Giovanni Puttin
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A project to enable flexible programming with the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The Broker, ZOA, and Netherlands Food Partnership, have started a new project aimed at better understanding and making explicit  the role and use of flexibility in the programming and funding structures of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and how it can contribute to more effective and efficient development cooperation in rapidly changing country contexts.

While it’s already possible to include flexibility in programming, for example, by integrating it into the risk management section of a proposal, discussions around an earlier project revealed that this option may be overlooked by organisations. Moreover, obstacles at both the institutional and operational levels, as well as in the relationships between donors and implementing partners, prevent this flexibility from being used to its full potential.

Since the Covid crisis, ad-hoc adjustment of programming returned on top of the agenda of many organisations, and with this project, The Broker and its partners want not only to explore the benefits and constraints of flexible planning, but also produce some practical guidelines that organisations and policymakers can use to create more adaptive and flexible programmes, by developing risk mitigation strategies in written proposals (especially for food security programmes to the Dutch MFA) and by developing flexible approaches to implementation and partnerships. 

Why add flexibility to planning?

With increased complexity of development issues and crises, the need for flexibility to implement complex types of adaptive, integrated and systemic programming is increasing and current approaches to flexibility have much room for learning and improvement.

Flexible programming allows for faster action, with better and more effective response in complex and dynamic environments. It also allows programmes to remain relevant.

Get in touch!

Do you know about a case where the need for flexibility has arisen? Was the necessary flexibility there, and was it used to effectively adapt the programme?

We are looking for case information to support this project, and would love to hear from you about your experiences.

Get in touch with Hannah on the project team at