RE: Can we use an evidence-based, evolving Theory of Change to achieve "local learning” during project design? | Eval Forward

John Hoven and I have spent considerable time developing an evolving ToC for my work serving the community of Rwenena, S. Kivu province, DRC. Along with local NGO partners, I have been active in programs I co-create and direct in the Ruzizi Plain for 10 years. I am currently working with professional agronomists and community facilitators at the Congo Federation of Smallholder Farmer Organizations-S. Kivu (FOPAC).

Most of our team's premeditated plans for advancing community-led development in 2020 were overtaken by 3 concurrent crises: a deadly flood in the town of Uvira, after which 75 IDP families joined the Rwenena community; crop devastation in Rwenena from the same flood; and mandatory stay-at-home orders as the threat of COVID-19 hit. Each one contributed to dire food insecurity.

Largely in response to these conditions came a positive outcome: the formation of a licensed and certified women’s enterprise whose members produce and sell their own formula of hand-sanitizing gel. This initiative emerged over a tense period of several months, and every week presented new and tentative changes.

John and I have tracked the course of this development with frequent assessments using an innovative approach to reflect local conditions. The flexibility of an adaptive ToC made perfect sense: we experimented with an evolving graphic tool that incorporated new sets of conditions to evaluate and act upon. Components included root causes, cause-and-effect, capabilities, actions, and outcomes. In another section, the tool featured programmatic sensitivities, with history, financial liabilities, cross-cultural inputs, challenges, actions, and successes. Another Congolese NGO is willing to try out an evolving ToC for a new project in Rwenena, Ituri province, and/or N. Kivu province.