'Theory of change' is an outcomes-based approach which applies
critical thinking to the design, implementation and evaluation of
initiatives and programmes intended to support change in their contexts.
It is being increasingly used in international development by a wide
range of governmental, bilateral and multi-lateral development agencies,
civil society organisations, international non-governmental
organisations and research programmes intended to support development
DFID commissioned this review of how theory of change is being used in
order to learn from this growing area of practice. DFID has been working
formally with theory of change in in its programming since 2010. The
purpose was to identify areas of consensus, debate and innovation in
order to inform a more consistent approach within DFID.
The review report is structured around nine topics that were identified
through scoping interviews with key DFID staff and partners. The review
focused on the practical aspects of working with theory of change in
To assist the reader, for each topic, key points are highlighted at the
start of each section, the findings illustrated with examples. Practical
suggestions are highlighted. Box Examples are also provided to
illustrate people's experience, from donors to implementing agencies
and projects. The appendices contain more examples of documented
theories of change and also guidelines and tools to support people
working with theory of change.
The report sections are:
Section 1: Executive summary
Section 2: Who is using theory of change in international development?
Section 3: What is 'theory of change thinking' in practice?
Section 4: Why are the 'assumptions' so important in theory of
Section 5: What makes a good quality theory of change process and
Section 6: Representing theories of change
Section 7: Using evidence to support a theory of change process?
Section 8: Using theory of change thinking to support evaluation,
impact assessment and learning
Section 9: Using theory of change to address complex aspects of
programmes and emergent strategy
Section 10: Embedding on-going theory of change thinking and learning
Section 11: Conclusions
Vogel, I. Review of the use of ‘Theory of Change’ in international development. Review Report. DFID, London, UK (2012) 83 pp.