Theory of Change TECHNICAL PAPERS A Series of Papers to Support Development of Theories of Change Based on Practice in the Field.

Taplin, D. H., Clark, H., Collins, E. and Colby, D. C.
Publication language
Date published
01 Apr 2013
Research, reports and studies
Evaluation-related, Research methodology

At its heart, Theory of Change spells out initiative or program logic. It defines long-term goals and then
maps backward to identify changes that need to happen earlier (preconditions). The identified changes
are mapped graphically in causal pathways of outcomes, showing each outcome in logical relationship to
all the others. Interventions, which are activities and outputs of any sort, are mapped to the outcomes
pathway to show what stakeholders think it will take to effect the changes, and when. Theory of Change
provides a working model against which to test hypotheses and assumptions about what actions will
best bring about the intended outcomes. A given Theory of Change also identifies measurable
indicators of success as a roadmap to monitoring and evaluation.
Theory of Change is both process and product: the process of working out the theory, mainly in group
sessions of practitioners and stakeholders led by a capable facilitator; and, as the product of that
process, a document of the change model showing how and why a goal will be reached. There is a good
deal of discussion as to which provides more value—the group process of reflecting on the work,
surfacing assumptions, creating transparency and building consensus; or the product, a sound and
complete plan with plausible potential for producing the change desired.