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Theory of Change Thinking in Practice: A stepwise approach

These Hivos Theory of Change Guidelines aim to support Hivos staff in applying a ToC approach as intended and set out in an earlier Hivos’ policy brief: ‘Hivos and Theory of Change’.

A theory of change approach can be used for different purposes, by different users, and at different moments in the cycle of developing, monitoring, reviewing or evaluating a programme or strategy. Table 1 gives an overview of the relevance of the Guideline chapters for different uses and user groups.

The guidelines are divided into three parts: PART A – Concepts and definitions, PART B – A stepwise approach, and PART C – Resources and tools.

Part A introduces theory of change and Hivos’ perspective on ToC thinking: what it is, what you should know before you start, and key features of ToC thinking that you need to understand in order to be able to use the approach effectively and reap the benefits of the process. ‘Theory of Change’ as a term is used by an increasing number of organisations and demanded by donors, but is not always understood in the same way. Hivos has developed its own understanding of the process and what good quality ToC work is all about. All users who are not fully acquainted with a ToC approach and/or are new to Hivos will benefit from reading this part.

Part B is a stepwise approach to guide you through the process of developing a ToC for different purposes. Here you will find also information on how to use specific tools recommended for each step. This is the most practical part of the document. Part B also includes ideas for a ToC Quality Audit that can be used to check whether all the necessary components are elaborated with sufficient quality. Such an audit is useful in two situations. First, for staff responsible for assessing proposals, either from partner organisations to Hivos, or from Hivos to other donors. It can also be used as an extra check at the end of a ToC design process by the team involved in the process. Second, for those involved in the review of the ToC of an ongoing intervention.

Part C contains references to tools suggested in Part B, as well as resources and sites where you can find more information about ToC use. This material will enable you to dive deeper in specific aspects of ToC, find appropriate tools for your purpose as well as updates and experiences of how others use ToC.

This guide does not elaborate on how to facilitate the process of developing a ToC. You will find some (links to) resources related to facilitation in section 8.3.

: Theory of Change Thinking in Practice: A stepwise approach

Organization: Hivos

Marjan van Es (Hivos)
Irene Guijt (
Isabel Vogel (

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