October 2015 / Jane Carter, Gender and Social Equity Coordinator, HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation
Building from an international workshop in April this year, ODI published a paper last month in which Craig Valters assesses the rapid rise in the use of "Theory of Change" in development discourse, planning and management. He identifies four principles in its use: focusing on process; prioritising learning; being locally led, and "thinking compass, not map". It is perhaps the last of these that is particularly helpful to remember when developing a theory of change, given the original intention to encourage critical reflection, and adaptation to the complexities of development realities. Valters argues that a theory of change is not a road map, but should be used to guide the direction of a development intervention across different obstacles. The paper has attracted considerable comment, both on ODI and LSE (London School of Economics) blogs by Valters himself, and in a blog by Duncan Green of Oxfam.
Theories of Change: Time for a radical approach to learning in development