Resource: Hivos Guide on Theories of Change

I recently came across this guide from Hivos called, “Theory of Change: Thinking in Practice”. I’m slowly making my way through it, but thought others here might find it useful. This guide takes a practical approach to introducing concepts and processes around theories of change. For example, the table on pages 9-10 outline which sections are most appropriate for different members of a team (program staff vs. M&E staff).

Hivos defines a theory of change as:

The ideas and hypotheses (‘theories’) people and organizations have about how change happens. These theories can be conscious or unconscious and are based on personal beliefs, assumptions and a necessarily limited, personal perception of reality.

I find this definition helpful because it speaks to the broad view that theories of change take (it’s about overall change, not specific to any 1 program or project). And it acknowledges that there are some limitations to a theory of change – assumptions made about how the world works and our own perception can influence the outcome. Nevertheless, they are powerful tools for helping lay out a particular theory and from there identify where a program can influence change.

This diagram below (pg. 18 of the guide) outlines how a theory of change operates at different levels. I like the distinction made here of an organizational TOC from a program/project theory of action.


I’m only a few pages in and already learning so much! I encourage others to read along as well and post with any insights you gain from this guide.