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What is a Theory of Change?

What is Theory of Change?

It is a facilitated process that assesses complex systems and identifies effective ways to create positive change.

“The description of a sequence of events that is expected to lead to a particular desired outcome”

- Rick Davies -


A sketch or picture of the rationale behind a development initiative.


It is both process and product.

The purpose of a Theory of Change is to:

  1. Clarify Thinking

  2. Foster a common understanding

  3. Communicate among internal and external actors

  4. Test assumptions and risks

  5. Be accountable upwards and downwards

  6. Provide a foundation for planning, monitoring and evaluation of the initiative

  7. Models can be imposed on projects or projects can modeled

The characteristics of a Theory of Change include:

Illustrating intended cause and effect relationships (through text, pictures, symbolic images, etc.)

Connecting parts by an underlying grammar (‘If' and ‘then’ statements)

Providing a consistent level of detail depending on scope of activity

Capturing a limited snapshot in time - so you must periodically update or redraft

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