Jurisdictional REDD+ (JR) is based on the premise that results-based flows of finance can drive changes in complex land-use systems across entire nations or subnational jurisdictions to achieve large-scale reductions in carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. The early JR experiments demonstrate that the promise of payments is, alone, insufficient to drive a jurisdictional land-use system transition. Effective JR strategies are needed that translate finance – or the prospect of finance – into forest-friendly changes in the land-use system that are embedded in public policies and programs aligned to achieve that end. Adaptive management has yet to be incorporated into JR programs and could potentially improve the performance of JR. To address this gap, we present a methodology for adaptively managing JR programs that features (a) a “living” mechanistic model of the jurisdictional land-use system, (b) an operational theory of change that describes how the JR strategy will intervene in this system to lower emissions, (c) an annual or biennial assessment process that revisits the theory of change through an independent group of experts and quantitative analysis of spatially-explicit components of the strategy, and (d) a decision-making body for adaptively refining the strategy based on the assessment. The methodology is illustrated for Ecuador’s national JR program, the “REDD + Action Plan” (AP), that has secured commitments of results-based payments and international cooperation funds totaling ∼ US $120 million.