Author: Cathy James
Year: 2011
Full Citation: James, C. (2011). Theory of change review: A report commissioned by Comic Relief. London, UK: Comic Relief
Associated Resource Tool(s):
Overview: This is an influential and oft- cited review of literature and analysis of the concept and application of the Theory of Change in development work. After examining the use of the term by various agencies and NGOs (with interviews and document reviews), James defines ‘Theory of Change’ as “An ongoing process of reflection to explore change and how it happens – and what that means for the part organizations play in a particular context, sector and/or group of people”. A well-articulated Theory of Change “can provide a very powerful learning lens, which helps organizations ask themselves and others simple but important questions about what they are doing and why. It enables them to develop a clear framework for monitoring and evaluation; have more common understanding, clarity and effectiveness in their approach; and strengthen their partnerships, organizational development and communications.” The benefits of using TOC approaches, include:
  1. Developing a common understanding of the work and surfacing any differences
  2. Strengthening the clarity, effectiveness and focus of programs
  3. Providing a framework for monitoring, evaluation and learning throughout a program cycle
  4. Improving partnership by identifying strategic partners and supporting open conversations
  5. Supporting organizational development in line with core focus and priorities
  6. Using theory of change to communicate work clearly to others and as a reporting framework
  7. Empowering people to become more active and involved in programs.

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