Hivos Action Learning Community Reflection Notes

These three Reflection Notes are products of the Hivos Action Learning Community and are based on the collective experiences of its members in their work with organisations who are developing their theory of change.

Process Oriented Theory of Change Facilitation. Surfing the Waves of Complexity

This paper explores the relationship between complexity thinking, group process facilitation, and the use of Theory of Change (ToC) from an action-learning perspective. For the purpose of this paper, Theory of Change is understood as a transformative actionthinking non-linear approach applied to complex social change processes.

Putting learning at the centre. Adaptive development programming in practice

This paper critically engages with the problem that much development thinking remains stuck in a linear planning model and makes clear why and how learning needs to be at the centre of adaptive development programming.

Tags: Reports

Theories of Change: time for a radical approach to learning in development

This paper, drawing on recent research and a workshop held at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) in April 2015, outlines the growing and diverse ways in which Theory of Change approaches are understood. The author argues that a Theory of Change approach demands a radical shift towards more and better learning in development thinking and practice.

Tags: Reports

QUESTION 10: Where can I find further reading, links and blogs on ToC?



Hivos' experience with ToC

The first phase of Hivos' ToC initiative ran from 2007 to 2010 and had the form of a capacity development programme with partners. In the course of this process a lot of reflection took place. A summary of the main lessons learned in that period can be found as Reflection Notes in English and Spanish.


QUESTION 5: How to integrate gender analysis and planning in ToC thinking?

Gender inequality manifests itself through a complex web of forces, socially, culturally and historically entrenched in societies and relationships and cannot be changed by isolated interventions. Gender mainstreaming implies political change and redistribution of power and resources. Theory of Change thinking might be a helpful framework to include gender analysis and gender equality objectives in programme design in a more consistent way.

QUESTION 3: How can ToC thinking help in programme design and planning?

In this section, you will find some information on how ToC can be used to design and develop effective strategies. It deals with ToC and Programme Design: Building the foundation for strategic choices, planning, monitoring, evaluation and learning.


QUESTION 1: I am a newcomer in ToC. What is it about?

Different organisations think quite differently about the term ‘theory of change’ (see also QUESTION 6).


On this portal, ‘theory of change’ (ToC) refers to the understanding an organisation, project, network or group of stakeholders has about how political, social, economic, and/or cultural change happens, and its contribution to such a change process. So ToC thinking is, therefore, the process of developing that understanding and using it to reflect continually in ways that allow for adaptation and checking of assumptions.

ESPA guide to working with Theory of Change for research projects

Author: Isabel Vogel
Organization: Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA)
Publication year: 2012


Tags: Reports

Understanding Theory of Change in international development. A review of existing knowledge

Authors: Danielle Stein & Craig Valters
Publication date: July 2012

This paper reviews the concepts and common debates within the 'Theory of Change' literature, resulting from a detailed analysis of available donor, agency and expert guidance documents. A number of key issues are highlighted in the paper and these inform the collaborative research.