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Predicting the future is not easy

Project development involves a lot of imagination to foresee the future. That imagination includes how resources are going to be utilized effectively in creating the project’s outputs and how each output will produce the outcomes or the goals at the end. Many scholars believe that it is a complex procedure, which requires a specific theory of change to guide their prediction without failing into over-simplification.

What is the Theory of Change?

The Theory of Change plays a very important role in clarifying the complex links between organisational values, vision, mission, strategy, outcome, and impact. The theory first emerged in the United States in the 1990s, in the context of improving evaluation theory. During the 90s, people believed that the Theory of Change was not only focusing on generating knowledge about programme effectiveness, but also on explaining what methods are effective. Eventually, the current evolution drove it into two streams, namely Evaluation and Informed Social Action.

Two different streams

Project evaluators viewed Theory of Change as a framework, which describe the types of intervention and the links between those interventions and project’s outcomes.

Meanwhile, Informed Social Action described the Theory of Change as the underlying beliefs and assumptions that guided a service delivery strategy to be critical for producing change and improvement.

How we see it

Regardless of how it was defined in the past, VVOB reviews the Theory of Change as a tool that describes how the project’s activities will achieve results that eventually will achieve the final intended impacts. Many development organisations had been applying the Theory of Change approach to guide their mapping of change. Both donors  themselves believe that the Theory of Change could illustrate the complex changing system that was not easy to imagine.