Theories of Change

Comments (1)
Date Published:
November 20, 2015
Community Contribution

Report coverThe Theory of Change approach, with its focus on continuous critical reflection, demands a radical shift towards more and better learning in development thinking and practice. No new tool or approach can in itself address problems of institutional incentives in the sector that block such learning. However, a Theory of Change approach may be able to create a productive (albeit small) space for critical reflection – in this industry a challenging and much-needed aim.

This paper, drawing on recent research and a workshop held at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) in April 2015,2 outlines the growing and diverse ways in which Theory of Change approaches are understood. It takes the key findings of recent research a step further, by outlining and justifying four key principles when using a Theory of Change approach, tied into a deeper analysis of the development sector.

The paper highlights throughout examples of the organisational use of Theories of Change, each of which attempts to go some way towards addressing the criticisms of the approach to date. It also analyses possibilities for taking these principles forward in light of the ‘results agenda’.


holttc wrote:

My name is Thomas Holt and I work at the Department of State in the SCA  bureau.  This article was informative.  The program team in my office is currently discussing internally about developing a TOC.  Does USAID have any guidance on facilitating such a process internally?  Any USAID resources worth pointing out?  Since I have a State account there are probably templates and other resources I can't access at USAID.


posted 6 years ago