The capacity of actors and institutions to learn and reorganize is central to the resilience of complex systems, particularly in the context of rapidly urbanizing cities. A process of qualitative, reflective research among practitioners within the Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN) showed that development projects and programmes can contribute meaningfully to this capacity when they introduce projects as “experiments”. While projects did provide desired tangible benefits to certain groups of actors, many of the most significant contributions to resilience were related to knowledge, networks, information, and greater engagement of citizens with the state. This emphasis on the capacity to learn and reorganize provides a counterpoint to ideas around “implementation” and “mainstreaming” normally promoted within climate change adaptation practice – and, importantly, can help enrich these practices to maximize their effectiveness. This paper focuses on international development projects in particular, although findings have implications for other types of adaptation and resilience initiatives supported by governments, private sector, or community-based organizations.