Theory of Change


This module will support your understanding and use of the Theory of Change Tool from the DIY Toolkit. You should look at the Theory of Change template which can be found on page 46 of the DIY Toolkit [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , before working through the module. You will find it helpful to have a printout of the Theory of Change template with you while you work through this module.

The Theory of Change is a tool that helps explain the relationship between a development problem being addressed and the strategies used to address it, showing why and how change takes place.

A Theory of Change can come in many different formats, but commonly involves a diagram containing boxes and arrows laid out to show how elements fit together, and why this arrangement should work.

Carrying out a Theory of Change should be a collaborative and consultative process. It connects stakeholders, clarifying a common pathway to a shared goal, promoting understanding of stakeholders’ roles and thus a sense of ownership among those involved. It is also a tool to enhance accountability, explaining the value in particular activities and so justifying the use of resources.

A key element of the Theory of Change is the identification of assumptions. Analysing and talking through these assumptions can help you to identify and plan for potential risks.

This module provides an overview of the Theory of Change model and an introduction to its value and use.

Learning outcomes

After studying this module, you should be able to:

  • describe the purpose and benefits of using a Theory of Change model (SAQ 1)
  • identify the steps involved in reaching a goal using the Theory of Change model (SAQ 2)
  • lead a participatory process of identifying the Theory of Change for a programme or idea (SAQ 3)
  • recognise how identifying assumptions helps to manage risks (SAQ 4).

1 The purpose and benefits of a Theory of Change model