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Theory of change

Community-based change initiatives often have ambitious goals, and so planning specific on-the-ground strategies to those goals is difficult. Likewise, the task of planning and carrying out evaluation research that can inform practice and surface broader lessons for the field in general is a challenge. Theories of change (ToC) are vital to evaluation success for a number of reasons. Programmes need to be grounded in good theory. By developing a theory of change based on good theory, managers can be better assured that their programmes are delivering the right activities for the desired outcomes. And by creating a theory of change programmes are easier to sustain, bring to scale, and evaluate, since each step - from the ideas behind it, to the outcomes it hopes to provide, to the resources needed - are clearly defined within the theory. Within this wider framework logic or outcomes models are very closely related, often being used to take a more narrowly practical look at the relationship between inputs and results.

A good place to start is with this introduction to 'theory of change' hosted here on the LfS blog page. Below are annotated links to a number of online ToC resources:

An accompanying page present a range of resource links on logic or outcomes modelling.You may also be interested in the related topic of indicator development. Another related page can be found in the knowledge management section with links on how best to develop conceptual models.