New publication: Guidance note 3: Theory of Change approach to climate change adaptation programming

Guidance for M&E of climate change interventions:  Dennis Bours, Colleen McGinn & Patrick Pringle


‘Theory of Change’ (ToC) is a critical thinking approach to program design, monitoring, and
evaluation which has become increasingly influential in international development. Described
as “a roadmap, a blueprint, an engine of change, a theory of action and more” (Stein and Valters
2012: 5), ToC outlines the building blocks and the relationships between them that would lead to
the accomplishment of a long-term goal. When done well, this approach enables stakeholders
to embed an intervention within a larger strategy and broad, transformative analysis. It is flexible
and practical insofar as it clearly articulates a vision of meaningful social change, and then
systematically maps out specific steps towards achieving it. ToC is especially well-suited for the
design, monitoring, and evaluation of complex, multifaceted, long-term endeavours and ‘wicked
problems’ like climate change, conflict transformation, and gender equality. It is not without
its critics, however, and there are concerns that if misapplied it might become an onerous (and
potentially confusing) bureaucratic requirement rather than a vehicle for transformation.

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