Using theories of change in the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health

The article gives a nice overview of how to use ToCs in the different stages during (the design and implementation of) projects/programmes. The article also illustrates the use of nested ToCs for the different stakeholders, and is at the same time making sure that the ToC is still simple to be interpreted.  What is interesting is that the authors differentiate between types of assumptions and their different positions within the Theory of Change.

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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.

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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.

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If using ‘Theories of Change’ cannot transform the way you operate, why bother?

This World Bank blog discusses Craig Valter's (commendably short) paper on "Theories of Change: time for a radical approach to learning in development". Suvojit Chattopadhyay describes the paper as Valters' advocacy for ‘modest radicalism’ in the use of Theories of Change (ToC) as an approach to improving reflection and learning in the development sector.

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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.

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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 9: How to facilitate a ToC process?

Facilitating a ToC process entails various elements. From our experience there are two elements we find essential: the facilitation process and ToC capacities. These cannot be separated, in the process a facilitator has to acknowledge present capacities and build new ToC capacities.


ToC process

In our experiences facilitation should start with acknowledging what is already present as ToC practice and ToC thinking capacity.


QUESTION 8: How can I recognize good quality ToC?

Presently a number of ToC schools and practice emerge. For those involved in the Hivos ToC Initiative, the following elements indicate the quality of ToC thought and practice. Quality is a combination of the content, how it was constructed and its use.


1. Grounded in the context

QUESTION 7: What is the critique on ToC?

In response to the growing interest in and demand for ToCs, critique is also emerging. A list of the most commonly heard critiques is presented below.


1. Too many often vague definitions

Even defining it, does not give much clarity about what it is and is not. There are so many definitions – and which is the right one? When do we know when it is good quality or not?


2. Nothing new

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QUESTION 6: What is the difference between Theory of Change (ToC), logframe and Theory of Action (ToA)?

What is the link between Theory of Change and the logical framework way of thinking and approach? What is the difference with a Theory of Action?


A Theory of Change (ToC) focuses on the dynamics of change in a specific context or process and the drivers through which change comes about – irrespective of any planned interventions.  


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