RAPTA: The Resilience, Adaptation Pathways and Transformation Assessment framework

What is it?
The Resilience, Adaptation Pathways and Transformation Assessment (RAPTA) framework provides practical guidance on how to apply the concepts of resilience, adaptation and transformation in the design and implementation of development projects so they can better achieve their goals, and deliver durable outcomes in the face of socio-economic uncertainty and rapid environmental change.
The core features of RAPTA are a systems view, focus on key drivers, risks and thresholds; adaptive management approach; carefully planned multi-stakeholder engagement; with learning embedded throughout.
During project design phase, project developers are encouraged to work with stakeholders to evaluate:
1. Resilience of what? What are the valued products and services delivered by the system?
2. Resilience to what? What hazards or shocks could impact the system’s capacity to deliver those products and
3. Key Determinants? What are the controlling variables of resilience in the system?
4. Points of Influence? How can the project affect those key determinants?
5. Project Effectiveness? How will the outcomes of the project be monitored, and lessons applied?

What is needed?
The RAPTA Guidelines “Designing Projects in a Rapidly Changing World: Guidelines for embedding resilience, adaptation, and transformation into sustainable development projects” provides step-by step guidance for each of the seven modules. RAPTA can be applied in each stage of the project cycle, in different ways. At simplest, RAPTA can be applied in a desk-top approach, for example at “expression of interest” stage, with shallow investigation of each component. Users require the guidelines, access to relevant literature, capacity to interact with key stakeholders.
Effective application of RAPTA in the project design phase will require much deeper engagement with stakeholders, in a workshop setting, to apply a participatory approach to project design. A trained facilitator is required.

Application of RAPTA in project implementation focusses on monitoring indicators for the key variables identified in planning stage; applying an adaptive management approach; capturing and applying learning. This stage will require the user to work closely with the project team, and involve interaction with the broader stakeholder group to transfer new knowledge, consult on modifications to project plans, plan for scaling up.

Is an expert needed?
Yes (describe below) While the guidelines are detailed and provide a sound basis for application of RAPTA it is strongly recommended that the user undertake a short course in application of RAPTA, particularly if new to resilience concepts.

How to
The Guidelines provide detailed instructions on application of each module of the framework, and guidance on how to use it at different stages of the project cycle.
The RAPTA process comprises (see Figure)
1. Scoping: identify the social-ecological system targeted by the project, and define the project goal
2. Engagement and Governance: process for ethically and transparently getting the right people involved, in the right way, at the right time; includes development of project governance arrangements
3. Theory of Change: articulate the rationale for the design and implementation of planned interventions; place the linked activities, outputs, outcomes and impacts within a logical framework
4. System Description; describe key social, economic and biophysical aspects of the system and the relationships that determine system function; identify key external drivers; identify interactions with scales above and below the targeted system; synthesise conceptual system model(s)
5 System Assessment: identifies potential risks, points of no return and key controlling influences (controlling variables) associated with anticipated
future shocks or changes, as well as opportunities for adaptation or transformation.
6. Options and pathways: Identify and evaluate potential Intervention Options; devise Implementation Pathways, including logical sequence and trigger points; apply learning to adapt over time.
7. Learning (Monitoring and Assessment, Learning and Knowledge
Management): specify learning needs; select and apply appropriate tools and methods; apply learning to revise other components of RAPTA, capture learning to inform future projects.

In the “expression of interest” stage, or for academic study, RAPTA can be applied as a desktop exercise. This mode requires review of available (published and “grey”) literature to develop an understanding of the social-ecological system, and discussion with key stakeholders to ensure the problems and root causes are adequately characterised; to test the proposed theory of change, and approach to devising alternative pathways.
Application of RAPTA in the project design phase would ideally involve 2-3 workshops of 2 days each, spaced through the project planning period:
• Workshop 1: clarify the goal, and devise the theory of change through a participatory process.
• Workshop 2: system description and system assessment, capturing the knowledge of diverse stakeholders, including local communities, professional technical experts from various disciplines, policy-makers and administrators, as applicable to the project, to determine the need for adaptation and/or transformation.
• Workshop 3: development of adaptation pathways, by defining alternative scenarios, identifying key interventions required, and planning their implementation.
In project implementation the focus is on adaptive management: revisiting the Theory of Change, system description, resilience assessment, and revising where necessary; monitoring the implementation of the adaptation pathways and adjusting as required; capturing learning, to inform the current and future projects.

Good practice tips
1. Three related terms underpin the RAPTA

• Resilience: The ability of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize, so as to retain essentially the same function and structure (identity).

• Adaptation: A process of responsive change that improves the ability of a system to achieve desired goals.

• Transformation: A process of moving to a system with different identity, structure and functions, to achieve desired goals. Often transformation is needed at one scale to maintain the resilience (or system identity) at another scale.

RAPTA applies these concepts as a continuum; the authors acknowledge that the terms are defined differently by some other disciplines, but urge users to focus on the application of the concepts rather than becoming side-tracked in debating the precise definitions of each of the terms.
2. Things to know about resilience (after Brian Walker):
• Resilience, in RAPTA, is a neutral system property: it is neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’.

• Understanding and managing resilience requires consideration of two categories of resilience:
 specified’ resilience – resilience of a system to identified disturbances, with specific thresholds (e.g. capacity of a grazing system to maintain ground cover above 50% during drought)
 ‘general’ resilience - capacity of the system to cope with all kinds of shocks and disturbances, and so be able to avoid crossing all thresholds, known or unknown, to alternate regimes (features such as ecological diversity, capital reserves, land tenure, education level, gender balance and health status determine general resilience)

• No system can be understood or managed at a single scale—all systems function at multiple (nested) scales, and interactions across scales affect resilience, adaptation and transformation.

• Making a system more resilient in one aspect can cause it to lose resilience in other ways or at other scales—there are often trade‐offs. For example, provision of watering points for livestock, which increases resilience to drought, may lead to overgrazing, increasing risk of soil erosion;
access to markets for cash crops will increase household income but may reduce agricultural species diversity and nutritional quality of local diets.

• Efforts to optimize system performance and increase efficiency by removing ‘unused’ reserves and ‘redundant’ functional capacities can reduce resilience of the system.
• Resilience is not about reducing variability, or never changing the system. Trying to prevent disturbance and keep a system constant reduces its resilience.

• Adaptation and transformation are complementary processes; may need to transform a lower scale of system to increase resilience at higher scale (e.g., enterprises may change at farm scale in order that the whole catchment retains its identity). When an undesirable regime shift has happened or is inevitable, intentional transformational change is required. The capacity to achieve this is called transformability.

3. Where available, use/adapt existing tools for specific modules, such as Theory of Change.
4. There is useful literature available on each of the modules – see the Guidelines for suggestions.

Success stories
RAPTA is currently being trialled in several projects including the Ethiopia and Nigeria projects within the Food Security Integrated Approach Pilot funded by the Global Environment Facility. The Stockholm Resilience Centre is also piloting RAPTA in their “Guidance for Resilience in the Anthropocene” (GRAID) project to assist with mainstreaming resilience thinking into development strategies. Dr Deborah O’Connell, CSIRO, is leading this project and CSIRO will report on the impacts of RAPTA in project design.

To learn more
This summary is based on “Designing Projects in a Rapidly Changing World: Guidelines for embedding resilience, adaptation, and transformation into sustainable development projects”, prepared for GEF/STAP by O’Connell, D., Abel, N., Grigg, N., Maru, Y., Butler, J., Cowie, A., Stone-Jovicich, S., Walker, B., Wise, R., Ruhweza, A., Pearson, L., Ryan, P., Stafford Smith, M.
These RAPTA guidelines are available at http://www.stapgef.org/the-resilience-adaptation-and-transformation-assessment-framework/.
This site also includes a background technical report and (desktop) case study report.

Created on 28 Nov 2016 14:07 by Annette Cowie
Updated on 28 Nov 2016 14:07 by Annette Cowie

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