Theory of Change for Development: Understanding, Usage, and Influence
Abstract: The Theory of Change (ToC) approach has become popular among the international development community, emerging as a need for organizations to carry out more effective initiatives in the context of an increasingly complex world. The levels at which a ToC process can be aimed are worldwide, organizational, thematic and program or project level. The purpose of this study is to generate a better understanding of how ToC is incorporated and utilized in capacity development projects. The analysis of data from sixteen qualitative semi-structured interviews with capacity development practitioners from implementing organizations and donor agencies confirm the existing ambiguity around the ToC concept. The study also reveals that ToC is suitable for working with complex interventions and it is often utilized at organizational and project level. ToC suitability in tackling complexity lays in the space it provides for working iteratively through multiple processes, assumptions based on research evidence and endless pathways of change. Originally used to address challenges in evaluation practices, ToC is being incorporated earlier in the process and throughout the project management cycle. The ToC approach is preferred for the enhanced communication and collaboration it brings to projects as stakeholders come together to operationalize their vision through the ToC development process. However, ToC is perceived as a challenging method to work with and this study recommends that organizations invest in ToC platforms and in training their staff to work with ToC and incorporate ToC effectively.
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