Author: Craig Valters
Year: 2015
Full Citation: Valters, C. (2015). Theories of change: Time for a radical approach to learning in development. London, UK: Overseas Development Institute
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Overview: This paper is a must read for anyone interested in how change happens, doing development differently, and the results agenda. Some excerpts: "The development industry is unbalanced in a number of ways. Approaches to accountability are narrow, time-consuming and unrealistic, and this works to displace genuine attempts to learn and adapt. Programs are often developed in a top-down way rather than being a result of locally led endeavors. Various, rather static, evidence artifacts are produced, but they fail to stimulate learning that can lead to improved programming. Social change processes are often understood in a linear way, when we know things rarely unfold as planned." Valters describes four key principles of a Theory of Change approach:
  1. Focus on process
  2. Prioritize learning
  3. Be locally led
  4. Think compass, not map
The paper unpacks these principles in clear, concise terms. He maintains that clear analysis should be about both how change in a given context occurs and what ongoing role individuals and organizations can play, instead of implying that change in a society revolves around the projects that organizations design and finance.
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