Inclusive transitions framework

Seth Kaplan & Mark Freeman


Transitions are the critical moments where fragile states can transform their social and political dynamics by pursuing more inclusive and cohesive practices. This publication argues that an inclusive approach offers the only realistic way to transform the relationships, institutions and dynamics that have troubled these countries. It draws on past experiences of conflict-affected countries to offer a framework that can be adapted and applied to different contexts.

The report notes that inclusive transitions are based on an inclusive social covenant, an inclusive national identity and narrative, and an inclusive social contract. It proposes ten priority areas for policy choices:  1) political dialogue processes; 2) nation-building programmes; 3) institutional design; 4) elections and political party development; 5) transitional justice; 6) rule of law; 7) security; 8) education; 9) economic growth; and 10) taxation and the administration of public resources. In each of these areas it highlights key questions, strategic options and examples of good and bad practice. It also highlights that:

  • Failure often occurs when too much is attempted too quickly in highly complicated, and often highly combustible, environments.
  • If unaddressed, deeply rooted economic, political, administrative, legal, security and socio-cultural practices that produce patterns of conflict and exclusion will undermine a transition.
  • An inclusive transition requires leaders across the whole political spectrum to come together, either from a similar collective or to overcome differences, to set the agenda and manage expectations.
  • Context assessment is necessary. While there may be lots of existing data and local knowledge, transitions require fresh analysis and a reconsideration of assumptions.

The report suggests that international funders can maximise their impact in the following ways:

  • Act politically smart: Make use of political-economic assessments to ensure customisation to context and reduce the risk of manipulation by local power holders.
  • Be there early: Have stand-by funds readily available.
  • Experiment: Purposely use trial and error to find the right approach.
  • Be flexible: Allow local staff and grantees to make changes on the go as transition dynamics and priorities shift.
  • Harness latent capabilities: Before identifying gaps and needs, look at what already exists and is working, no matter how unfamiliar.
  • Invest in people: Develop and empower inclusive local leaders;
  • Support processes: Emphasise initiatives geared to the brokering of relationships across different actors and groups.
  • Use mixed approaches: Adopt catalytic short-term strategies along with some longer-term bets.
  • Integrate policies: Be multidisciplinary, working across fixed programming categories.
  • Prepare for the long haul: Make long-term funding commitments to countries that have promising transitions, and allow for an unusual degree of staff continuity.
  • Broaden the definition of success: Balance the need to show tangible results with investments that achieve less tangible aims (such as changes in social attitudes and institutional behaviours).
  • Recognise the value of partnerships: Work with organisations that know the terrain and can flexibly adapt to local circumstances.


Kaplan, S., & Freeman, M. (2015). Inclusive transitions framework. Barcelona: Institute for Integrated Transitions (IFIT).