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#WhatWorks Blog: What is (good) program theory in international development?

Policy interventions are designed to ultimately benefit citizens, communities, institutions and society as a whole. To better understand how interventions can make a difference, for whom and under what circumstances, it is paramount that we develop useful and realistic abstractions (“theories”) of intervention realities. In a previous blog Jos Vaessen identified four symptoms of sub-optimal use of program theory in the design and evaluation of policy interventions in international development. In this blog, he focuses on the first symptom, a lack of consensus on what program theory is about. Differences in terminology, a lack of clarity on the sources of theory, and a lack of understanding of (good) theory specification all contribute to this lack of consensus.

This is the second blog of a series on program theories by Jos Vaessen, advisor on evaluation methods at the World Bank Independent Evaluation Group (IEG). You can find the first blog in the related content section.