The USAID Program Cycle 

The Program Cycle, codified in the Automated Directive Systems (ADS) 201, is USAID’s operational model for planning, delivering, assessing, and adapting development programming in a given region or country to achieve more effective and sustainable results in order to advance U.S. foreign policy.

The Program Cycle policy is based on four principles that are essential for good development and serve as the foundation for ADS 201:USAID Program Cycle

  • Apply analytic rigor: Make strategic choices based on conclusions supported by evidence.
  • Manage adaptively: Make adjustments in response to new information and context changes.
  • Promote sustainability: Generate lasting changes that can be sustained by local actors.
  • Utilize diverse approaches for increased flexibility: Use a range of modalities to address diverse development challenges.

This page aggregates key resources related to the implementation of ADS 201. Keep an eye on the space below for new and updated resources on the Program Cycle.


In October 2020, USAID updated ADS 201. These updates help to streamline the project and activity design process, and to harmonize monitoring, evaluation and Collaborating, Learning and Adapting (CLA) requirements. These changes build on revisions in 2019 to improve strategic planning, in addition to integrating the Journey to Self-Reliance throughout the Program Cycle. They include:

  • We have streamlined business processes to shorten the time between design and procurement. For example, we dramatically streamlined project documentation and requirements, made projects optional and harmonized activity design requirements and procedures. 
  • USAID operating units can decide whether to design activities to stand alone or if they should contribute with other, related activities as part of a project. 
  • As projects are now optional, evaluation requirements have been updated. USAID operating units must complete one evaluation per intermediate result in their strategy (if one is in place), and each activity with a total estimated cost of $20 million or more must be evaluated.
  • The policy requiring that all new or pilot approaches undergo an impact evaluation remains in place, and with a new requirement that all impact evaluations include a cost analysis of the pilot approach. 
  • The policy on Activity Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Plans has been updated to include requirements and recommendations regarding the collection and use of beneficiary feedback by implementing partners and managing emerging risks. 
  • There is a stronger emphasis on the implementation of projects and activities, not just on up front planning.


Below are some key resources to learn more about the Program Cycle and its updates.