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USAID defines assumptions as conditions under which the development hypothesis, or strategy for achieving a CDCS Development Objective, will hold true. For each DO, the CDCS must describe relevant critical assumptions and risk factors that lie beyond USAID’s control, but could have a significant effect on the success of the strategy and describe the degree to which the Mission can identify and manage these factors, and how it plans to monitor them during implementation, including whether identified assumptions hold.

USAID's CDCS guidance breaks assumptions into two distinct clusters and asks that Missions articulate both types as they pertain to specific DOs, namely, critical assumptions about factors that are beyond the Mission's direct control, and assumptions about USAID's Partners and their ability to deliver results linked to the CDCS. These two types of assumptions are discussed below. Country information included shows how important assumptions are for understanding, making decisions about, and investing in a proposed CDCS strategy. By convention, assumptions are usually stated positively.

  • Critical Assumptions are those which are particularly crucial to success but also lie beyond USAID's control and may lie outside its sphere of influence. These are the types of assumptions included with Results Frameworks in the past. The term “game changing” scenarios, such as a large-scale ethnic conflict emerging, has been introduced to illustrate the type of assumption that would represent a major risk, and would warrant careful consideration, and ongoing monitoring.
  • Assumptions about Results Achieved through Non-AID Resources Assumptions in this cluster focus on results that depend on other USG agencies, the host country government, other donors, multilateral development institutions, non-governmental organizations, and private sector organizations.

When reviewing trade results in a Results Framework, Missions may find the following list of illustrative assumptions about partners and critical assumptions a useful starting point for discussions.

Categories of Assumptions Illustrative Categories of Assumptions for the Result: Improved Trade Performance
Assumptions About Partners Critical Assumptions
Political Conditions
  • Consistent Government Policy (including on trade)
  • Stability — no conflict 
  • Consistent Government Policy (including on trade)
Economic Conditions  
  • Relative stability at home 
  • Stable international markets (demand/supply/prices)
Financial Conditions (Government)
  • Stability/improvement in Government Budget
  • Stable donor funding to country and for donor budget
  • Stability/improvement in Government Budget 
  • Stable donor funding to country and for donor budget
Capacity — Partner Able to deliver on commitments  
Capacity — Partner's vendors Able to deliver on commitments  
Will — Partner Serious/Committed over extended period to their Results  
Performance — Partner Will deliver as promised — quantity, quality, time, influence Will deliver as promised — quantity, quality, time, influence
Performance — Partner's vendors Will deliver as promised - quantity, quality, time, influence  
Force majeure No unexpected crises No unexpected crises

CDCS development teams may also want to make use of the Assumptions Templates provided in this section of the kit for their use: one for Assumptions About Non-USAID Resources and another for Critical Assumptions.

In addition to identifying Assumptions, USAID’s CDCS Guidance asks staff to identify “game changing scenarios” that would have significant implications USAID’s country strategy overall or at the DO level, in a particular sector or region. While not specifically defined, revolutions, the tsunami in South East Asia, and global climate change more generally are changes of this order, as, from another perspective, has been the introduction of cell phones in the developing world. As any scenario of this sort is likely to require special attention in a CDCS, the E3 M&E kit does not include a standard template for describing important changes of this magnitude and their implications.