What does it mean to ‘adapt an innovation’ when scaling global development projects

What does it mean to ‘adapt an innovation’ when scaling global development projects


30 Mar 2023    
1:00pm - 2:00pm

Event Type


30 March 2023, 1-2pm

The Centre for the Study of Global Development is delighted to commence their external seminar series for 2023.

Speaker: Professor Freda Wolfenden, Professor of Education and International Development at The Open University in the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies.

This will be a hybrid event.

Venue: Jennie Lee Building L1 Blue Ash, The Open University, Milton Keynes


Global discourse increasingly focuses on scaling proven innovations and their impacts to address problems of educational access and participation. Adaptation is recognised as integral to successful scaling (Cooley, Seghers, & Perlman Robinson, 2021) but there is little published research on the nature of the adaptation process in different contexts and how it is informed by concerns of equity, quality and cost. The adaptation process is often depicted as one in which international guidance supports ‘local’ actors to combine global research with local conditions. In recent work we have problematised this conception. We see adaptation as a dynamic two-way open process, which is participatory, relational and positions participants at all levels of the system as knowledgeable experts: a culturally embedded social practice (Rogoff, 2008). A key challenge is to create conditions in which there are opportunities for all participants to be agentive to experiment with different adaptations within regimes of accountability.

This seminar will draw on emerging findings from education projects in different contexts which aim for system change to illustrate how adaptation has occurred in practice and share a tentative model for adaptation to prompt discussion of adaptation in different sectors such as health, nutrition and youth employment, and contexts.