RE: Do you have examples on reviewing Theories of Change? | Eval Forward

Dear Anna Maria,

Hi and I think you're on the right lines - develop some questions with which to frame conversations with people who have been in involved in implementation. I would also add those who were involved in developing the ToC (who may be different folk).

My own experience in reviewing ToC follows three broad themes each with an overarching question:

  • Inclusiveness of the approach/method - who was involved and how well and whose theory is it? For example, was it the donor advisors consulting with beneficiaries/clients or just the donor staff doing their own  research and toing and froing around different technical areas and then signed off by an internal QA unit. or .......? 
  • Robustness of the evidence - on what basis were the assumptions developed and the results - outputs, outcome and impact - arrived at - the pathways to change and the changes themselves ?; and 
  • Coherence and plausibility of the product - is the diagram/visual accompanied with a clear narrative explaining HOW the Action Theory (ie, activities and outputs) will stimulate WHAT change among WHOM and WHY ie, the Change Theory). 

The look of the product will also vary and, in this regard, Silva makes a good point, though i wouldn't profess to have the software skills to produce the second diagram, nor the intellectual capacity to understand it!!! The action and change theories rarely follow a linear trajectory, but there is no right or wrong. A key difference is in how the product makes clear the consequences for the monitoring and learning process. If it's building a bridge, then you simply engineer a set process to hell from beginning to end and monitor this accordingly. However, if its to do with programme outputs striving to stimulate changes in the behaviours and relationships among people - or outcomes - then this has obvious implications on monitoring: the assumptions made about how and why they will respond to outputs - matter as much as, if not more than, the outcome indicators.  

Depending on who funds the work you are doing, each donor has a slightly different take on/guidelines for for  ToC (and LFs). I developed some for reviewing the content of log frames and have attached them. Hope they are of some help.  

On log frames.......The methodology used for developing what people call a ToC is not so different to how some, like GTZ (now GIZ), develop Logframes. See here. I think this is the best method i have seen, thus strongly recommend it as reference in assessing the quality of the process and, in many ways, the product. Its essence is well captured by Harriet Maria's neat video. Claims as to how ToC take better account than LFs of complexity and with its emphasis on assumptions and better explaining the why's and how's of change ring somewhat hollow.   

As with many methods and tools, there is nothing i believe to be intrinsic to LFs that encouraged many donor agencies to either ignore or mis-use the method and arrive at a product that is too simplistic and  deemed as not fit for purpose. Given they did, it didn't surprise me that they moved to ToC......!

I hope some of this helps and good luck. Please do get back to me if you want to talk anything through.

Best wishes,