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Theory of Change: A thinking and action approach to navigate in the complexity of social change processes

Author: Iñigo Retolaza Eguren
Organization(s): Hivos, Democartic Dialogue, UNDP
Publication date: April 2011


What is a Theory of Change (ToC) and why is it important? This guide to understanding and developing a ToC shows how a ToC helps to configure the conditions needed to achieve desired change, using the experience of a given context. This is done partly by making assumptions explicit and by analysing them critically. It is also a monitoring tool that facilitates accountability. A good ToC allows development practitioners to handle complexity without over-simplification.

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Guidance Note 3: Theory of Change approach to climate change adaptation programming

Authors: Bours, D., McGinn, C. & Pringle, P. (for SEA Change CoP, UKCIP)
Publication date: 2014

This Guidance Note describes the Theory of Change approach and explains why it is a good fit for climate change adaptation programming. It highlights its differences with the more familiar logic model / logical framework (‘logframe’) approaches – and also shows how they can be used together.

Review of the use of ‘Theory of Change’ in international development

Author: Isabel Vogel (for DFID)
Publication Date: 2012 

'Theory of change' is an outcomes-based approach which applies critical thinking to the design, implementation and evaluation of initiatives and programmes intended to support change in their contexts.

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UNICEF Methodological briefs. Impact evaluation No. 2: Theory of Change

Author: Patricia Rogers
Date: September 2014

Recognizing the importance of impact evaluation to UNICEF's work, the Office of Research - Innocenti has collaborated with  RMIT University, the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie), and BetterEvaluation to produce a series of methodological briefs and videos on the topic. The series covers the building blocks of impact evaluation, strategies for causal attribution, and different data collection and analysis methods. The focus of Impact Evaluation Brief No. 2 is on the Theory of Change (ToC).

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Theory of Change: A Practical Tool For Action, Results and Learning

Author: Organizational Research Services (ORS)
Publication Date: 2004 

This publication addresses the need of every community for a roadmap for change. One recommended approach is to develop an outcome map, a visual diagram that depicts relationships between initiative strategies and intended results. This map would illustrate destinations of progress and the routes to travel on the way to achieving progress.

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A Theory of Social Change and Implications for Practice, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation

Author: Doug Reeler
Year of publication: 2007

A theory of social change is proposed through this paper as one small contribution to a larger body of theorising.  This paper can be seen as an observational map to help practitioners, whether field practitioners or donors, including the people they are attempting to assist, to read and thus navigate processes of social change.  

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Scale, Complexity and the Representation of Theories of Change: Part II

Author: Davies, Rick 
Publication Date: 2005 (Evaluation)

Because of the global scale and diversity of their work, international aid agencies face major problems when attempting to represent their plans and evaluate their achievements. In this second of two articles looking at types of change processes, the focus is on complex processes of change that include mutual influence, parallel processes and feedback loops.

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Scale, Complexity and the Representation of Theories of Change - Part I

Author: Davies, Rick 
Publication Date: 2004 (Evaluation) 

International aid agencies face major problems when attempting to evaluate their achievements. Activities, intended beneficiaries, partner institutions and social contexts are diverse because of their global scale. How can agencies' 'theories of change' be adequately represented in summary forms that respect the complexity and diversity?

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Mapping change - Using a theory of change to guide planning and evaluation

Author: Anne Mackinnon, Natasha Amott (Part of the GrantCraft series)
Publication Date: 2006 

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IPAL: Developing a theory of change. A guide to developing a theory of change as a framework for inclusive dialogue, learning and accountability for social impact.

Author: IPAL - Keystone
Publication date: 2009

This guide helps social purpose organizations to plan, monitor, evaluate and communicate their work in a way that makes practical sense of the complexity of social change processes and their measurement.

Tags: Articles