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

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.  


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 4: How can ToC thinking help in monitoring and evaluation?


The ToC will assist you to have clarity on your outcome chain(s) and explains which strategies have been selected, why this set of strategies and not other strategies, and how they are expected to unfold. ToC’s often are revised and updated in the course of the programme life, taking into account lessons learned and opportunities for improvement of the ToC.


ToC and Monitoring

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.

Hivos: Working with a Theory of Change in complex change processes. An introduction


In order to create a Theory of Change, Hivos outlines six steps, including: 1)  Formulating the “dream” or “vision of success”; 2) Developing the pathways for outcomes; 3) Articulating assumptions; 4) Highlighting the context and the role of other actors; 5) Identifying the roles and strategies of the organization in the change process; and 6) Testing the logic and relevance of the theory and consulting with stakeholders.

Hivos and Theory of Change: Experiences and lessons of the first phase 2007-2010


Background: Some years ago, Hivos searched for an alternative for the ‘standard’ planning and reporting frameworks that would be more appropriate to its own and partners’ practices and that would support us all in strategic thinking and more systematic learning. In 2007 this resulted in a pilot in capacity development support to partner organisations, using a Theory of Change approach, taking a broader perspective and with objectives of strengthening “result-oriented practice”. Since then, this process has gone through several phases of experimentation and reflection.

Local NGOs and their contribution to social change in Latin America: paradoxes and contradictions


Author(s): Iñigo Retolaza & Paola Rozo

English title: Local NGOs and their contribution to social change in Latin America: paradoxes and contradictions. Critical Reflection Paper
Action-Learning Process on the Theory of Change. Latin America sub-process. Hivos

Spanish title: Las ONGs locales y su contribución al cambio social en América Latina.
Paradojas y contradicciones. Nota de Reflexión Crítica. Proceso de Aprendizaje-Acción sobre Teoría de Cambio. Sub-proceso América Latina. Hivos

Hivos policy brief on Theory of Change


Policy Brief: Hivos and Theory of Change 2014

The purpose of this paper is to explain Hivos’ understanding and use of the concept ‘Theory of Change’, which has become increasingly important in its strategic thinking. The paper is meant to inform external stakeholders, such as organisations Hivos collaborates with, funders and other allies in Hivos’ work for social change. Internally, for Hivos staff, it forms the basis for more practical guidelines that will soon follow.