Theories of change (ToCs) are increasingly used to articulate pathways for interventions and to support learning. This responds to the recognition of the complexity of agricultural development. Through two examples, this paper examines how ToCs have enabled practitioners to navigate towards impact in settings characterized by a multiplicity of views from different actors on issues of joint concern. The cases discuss how the intervention programs test the ToCs, as well as organize and reflect on feedback. The cases reveal that one cannot predict the route to impact, but one can compose plausible story lines explicating the assumptions. Developing and using ToCs takes time and requires a deliberate effort to monitor actions and changes. Connecting practitioners with researchers makes it possible to use more intermediate theorisations tailored to situated and specific impact pathways. However, the dynamics captured by ToCs may contrast with the donors’ demands for accountability and consistent reliance on a rigid log-frame approach to determine project activities and outputs. Therefore, it is relevant to make explicit choices about how to relate ToCs to M&E efforts.
The Partnerships Resource Centre (PrC)
Rotterdam School of Management (RSM), Erasmus University

Vellema, S., Maru, Y., Ekong, J., McNamara, P., Waters-Bayer, A., Watson, D, & Brouwers, J. (2017). Do theories of change enable innovation platforms?. The Partnerships Resource Centre (PrC). Retrieved from