So what is ‘Theory of Change’ anyway?

10 January 2022
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Staff of the Programming and Evaluation Support Unit of the Conflict Prevention Centre (PESU-CPC), in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) spent several days engaging with this question. PESU deliver regular project management training across the organisation and assure the quality of project design, so there was plenty of experience and lessons to share.

Training on Theory of change or ‘ToC’ was facilitated by CIDT’s Ella Haruna. The ToC approach encourages stakeholders to debate how an initiative can best produce desirable outcomes by asking them to make explicit connections between the different components of how a programme works (Weiss.) There is no standard format for a ToC, it is no “magic bullet’ (Vogel) and has even been called ‘a logframe on steroids’ (Ortiz). However in the words of Patricia Rogers:

Every programme is packed with beliefs, assumptions and hypotheses about how change happens… Theory of Change is about articulating these many underlying assumptions about how change will happen in a programme.

Participants appreciated the tailored approach to training and the opportunities for interactive exchange between colleagues:

  • The training was tailor-made to reflect on the experience and knowledge of the participants with active engagement of the audience
  • Very tailored approach to the needs of the group; excellent facilitator; interactive course which used different tools to keep the Zoom setting not too tiring
  • Creating space for discussion on how we do things in our unit. Putting our methodological choices on the spot, learning how others do things.

The OSCE is comprised of 57 participating States working together on politico-military, economic and environmental, and human aspects of security. Security relates to many aspects of the way we live and are governed, ranging from conflict prevention to fostering economic development, ensuring the sustainable use of natural resources, and promoting the full respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms. OSCE activities include arms control, security-building measures, human rights, national minorities, democratization, policing strategies, counter-terrorism and economic and environmental activities.