Rosalind Eyben, Thalia Kidder, Jo Rowlands, Audrey Bronstein, January 2008
Development practice is informed by theories of change, but individuals and organisations may not make them explicit. Practitioners may be unaware of the extent to which strategic choices and debates are informed by disparate thinking about how history happens and the role of purposeful intervention for progressive social change. In the past few years, some Oxfam GB staff have been creating processes to debate their theories of change as part of an effort to improve practice. In this context, the authors introduce four sets of ideas about change, with a discussion of how they have been explored in two instances, and some of the challenges emerging from this process. Through explicitly debating theories of change, organisational decision-making processes can be better informed and strategic choices made more transparent.
Thinking about Change for Development Practice: A Case Study from Oxfam GB (PDF, 107 KB)
Isabel Vogel for the UK Department of International Development, April 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. It is being increasingly used in international development by a wide range of governmental, bilateral and multi-lateral development agencies, civil society organisations, international non-governmental organisations and research programmes intended to support development outcomes.
The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) commissioned this review of how theory of change is being used in order to learn from this growing area of practice. DFID has been working formally with theory of change in its programming since 2010. The purpose was to identify areas of consensus, debate and innovation in order to inform a more consistent approach within DFID.
Review of the Use of ‘Theory of Change’ in International Development Review Report (PDF, 8.29 MB)
Doug Reeler of the Community Development Resource Association, 2007
"Most significantly, and ironically, the very project approaches that donors insist be used for planning, monitoring and evaluating practice and impact, like Logical Framework Analysis and its cousins, have tacitly introduced a misleading and self-defeating theory of social change." This paper puts forward a different theory of social change that goes beyond implicit conventional theories, providing a different framework for seeing and working with the complexities of change.
A Three-fold Theory of Social Change and Implications for Practice, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (PDF, 364 KB)