3 The participatory process of identifying the Theory of Change for a programme or idea

The example used in Section 2 was based on personal knowledge and experience of similar interventions. However, this was for the purposes of introducing the tool. In practice this is not an effective way to develop a Theory of Change. One person is unlikely to fully understand all of the issues involved, and they would not get broad consensus about the theory if nobody else has been involved in developing it.

Key point

A Theory of Change model is more effective if it is the result of a participatory process that involves as wide a range of stakeholders as practicable.

Even when you, as a development practitioner, think you have a clear idea of the problem and what needs to be done, it is still a good idea to begin a participatory process that sets aside your own preconceptions. This is because:

  1. you are bound to learn more from other stakeholders, and
  2. you want your stakeholders to own the process.

It is reasonable to identify the goal you are hoping to reach as well as some ideas about the problem, otherwise it would be difficult to assemble the appropriate stakeholders. It is likely that you will also have ideas and options about how to address the problem. But from there it is critical to develop the Theory of Change in a participatory way.

Normally this will involve inviting stakeholders to a planning session to develop the ideas further and agree on a way forward. Your stakeholders may be

  • primary: those directly affected by the intervention being planned, or
  • secondary: those affected indirectly.

Activity 4

Timing: Allow around 5 minutes for this activity

The Theory of Change used in Section 2 identifies two key audiences and mentions other groups but does not list possible stakeholders. Can you list groups or individuals that you would consider as primary and secondary stakeholders who could be part of a participatory process of developing the project further, including defining the Theory of Change?

Use the text boxes below to create your two lists.

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2 Reaching a goal using the Theory of Change model

3.1 Working with stakeholders