ADAPTool Guidebook: V2.0 for Existing Policies

By Stephen Tyler, Dimple Roy, Darren Swanson, Stephen Tyler, Kari Hansen Tyler on March 21, 2014

The Adaptive Design and Policy Assessment Tool (ADAPTool) is an Excel spreadsheet developed by the International Institute for Sustainable Development and partners as a structured guide through an assessment process that compares existing policies and programs to the characteristics of adaptive policies set out through previous research.

This guidebook is intended to help users through the application of the ADAPTool. For details about the concepts of adaptive policies, examples of their application and further information about supporting background research, the user should refer to Creating Adaptive Policies, which is available in full-text online at no cost. The seven characteristics of adaptive policies are: 1) integrated and forward-looking analysis, 2) multistakeholder deliberation, 3) automatic policy adjustment, 4) self-organization and social networking, 5) decentralization of decision making, 6) promoting variation and 7) formal policy review and continuous learning. Why "adaptive policies"? The context for public policy is changing rapidly and policy-makers are often concerned about how their policies and programs may respond to future conditions, both anticipated and unanticipated. Our research on a broad range of policies in several sectors has pointed to a set of characteristics that will strengthen the adaptability of public policies to shocks, stresses and changing conditions. These stresses can include climate change, volatile market prices, demographic pressures or any other driver of change that can potentially have a big impact on policy performance. The ADAPTool helps users to assess policy or program adaptability in relation to these key characteristics of adaptive policies.

The ADAPTool assesses policies or programs in relation to a defined stressor or external change. It produces two kinds of assessments:

  1. It gauges the ability of existing policies or programs to support adaptation measures undertaken in response to the specified stressor by the policy target groups.
  2. It assesses the general adaptability of the policies or programs themselves, which is to say, whether they likely to respond well under the influence of the defined changes as well as under unforeseeable changes in the future.

The tool consists of four worksheets. The responses for the first worksheet and most of the second worksheet are compiled through an online form. The last question of the second worksheet and the entire third worksheet are filled out as part of the data collection process, either through interviews or research by the analyst. For examples of ADAPtool assessments, please click here.

Report details

Climate Change Adaptation
ADAPTool Adaptive Policy
Focus area
Act Together
IISD, 2014