Theory of Change – Background and guidance

What is a Theory of Change?

A Theory of Change (ToC) is a document which summarises why a particular way of working will be effective, showing how change happens in the short, medium and long term to achieve the intended impact.

A ToC is used for research projects. Basic inputs are funding for research, scientific expertise, and influencing and partnership activities. Researchers will use existing evidence to guide the development and evaluation of relevant interventions. They will develop key partnerships with a range of academics, policy makers, service delivery organisations, communities and NGOs. Research may (or may not) show positive new findings that can influence policy and practice, requiring proactive dissemination to promote uptake of evidence.

A ToC is developed at the beginning of a project to assist with strategic planning. It is particularly helpful if you are planning or evaluating a complex project. Please see the guidance below from the UKRI about how to develop a ToC.

The following template from Development, Impact and You may prove useful as a guide:

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UKRI Theory of Change Guidance

MAP Theories of Change of Rwanda, Indonesia, Nepal and Kyrgyzstan

Each MAP country has created a Theory of Change for their Phase One activities. They have done this by identifying long-term goals for their Phase One activities and then working back to identify all the conditions (entry points and key steps) that must be in place (and how these related to one another) for the goals to occur. These stages and long-term goals are all mapped out in the diagrams below.

Research to Action Guidance