Theories of Change in International Development
Communication, learning, or accountability?
Valters, on a commission from the Asia Foundation, studied the application of Theory of Change as the tool for communication, learning and accountability in projects underway in Timor Leste, Nepal, The Philippines and Sri Lanka. The purpose of this research was to understand the actual effects of using a Theory of Change approach and consider how that approach may be better understood as a tool to improve development policy and practice.Key findings of the study include:
- the TOC approach can be a useful tool for critical reflection if people include analysis of how existing power dynamics might change, and learn how local people see that change happen,
- to function properly as a tool of analysis and a guide to action, the organization must support all staff to critically analyze interventions,
- A prescriptive project design and a repressive political context discourages critical reflection,
- A TOC needs to focus on process rather than product, uncertainty rather than results, iterative development of hypothesis rather than static theories, and learning rather than accountability,
- It is worthwhile to enrich the TOC approach with "other concepts and practices such as problem-driven iterative adaptation (PDIA) or single and double loop learning"