Causal Pathways Initiative

Causal Pathways Logo
Partner type:
Project partner

The Causal Pathways initiative was established to connect experiences and build insights about using causal pathways analysis, especially with complex systems change interventions. The initiative was launched in 2021 by PolicySolve, Center for Evaluation Innovation, ORS Impact, and a network of methodologists and evaluators around the world with support from the Walton Family Foundation. The network’s leadership and activity expanded in 2023, and new funders joined, including Humanity United, The California Endowment, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Wellspring Philanthropic Fund, and Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.

The Causal Pathways Initiative is led by:

  • Jewlya Lynn, United States
  • Julia Coffman, United States
  • Carolina De La Rosa Mateo, United States

Leading network members include:

  • Carlisle Levine, United States
  • Kimberlin Butler, United States
  • Marina Apgar, Greece

Contributing network members include:

  • Abdoul Karim Coulibaly, Mali
  • Alison Gold, United States
  • Debbie Reed, United States
  • Drew Koleros, United States
  • Fiona Remnant, United Kingdom
  • Florencia Guerzovich, Brazil
  • Giel Ton, United Kingdom
  • Heather Britt, Spain
  • Hippolyt Pul, Ghana
  • James Copestake, United Kingdom
  • Jeph Mathias, New Zealand
  • Melanie Punton, United Kingdom
  • Sarah Stachowiak, United States
  • Steve Powell, United Kingdom
  • Tom Aston, United Kingdom
  • Toyin Akpan, Nigeria
  • Yulianto Dewata, Indonesia
  • Zoe Sutherland, United Kingdom

Field actions

  • Symposium playlist: Recordings from the September 2023 Causal Pathways Initiative three-day virtual symposium. Sessions debunked myths about this work and introduced practical approaches and methods for exploring causal pathways.
  • Case studies: Real-life examples of how to incorporate causal pathways exploration into evaluations.
  • Brain Trust Advisors: A space for philanthropic organizations to consult with a group of expert methodologists on where or how to incorporate causal pathways evaluations into their grantmaking.
  • Conferences and trainings: The Causal Pathways Initiative attends various conferences throughout the year, such as the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) and American Evaluation Association (AEA) conferences with sessions and opportunities to get practical examples of how to use causal pathways. In addition, the initiative also offers virtual 101 trainings for both evaluators and evaluation commissioners.

Content supported by this partner

  • Causal Link Monitoring (CLM) is an evaluation approach that combines implementation design and monitoring to support adaptive management of projects, helping project planners and managers to identify processes needed to achieve desired outcomes.
  • A causal pathways perspective on evaluation focuses on understanding how, why, and under what conditions change happens or has happened.
  • This series of webinars was first presented at the Causal Pathways Symposium 2023, which focused on "connecting, learning, and building a shared understanding of the evaluation and participatory practices that make causal pathways more visible".
  • This session of the Causal Pathways Symposium 2023, by Zoë Sutherland, explores process tracing and how it can be used to understand causal pathways.
  • The Causal Pathways Initiative seeks to help philanthropy and other funders open up the black box of strategy and systems change.
  • This session of the Causal Pathways Symposium 2023, by Heather Britt, introduced causal link monitoring, a method for integrating monitoring data and evaluation in order to address causality amid complexity.
  • This session of the Causal Pathways Symposium 2023, by Steve Powell, focused on causal mapping, a tool for mapping causal relationships in evaluation, including visualizing them.
  • This session of the Causal Pathways Symposium 2023, by Drew Koleros, explored the use of contribution analysis as a theory-based approach to evaluation to unpack complexity within complex systems change evaluations.
  • This session of the Causal Pathways Symposium 2023 explores when to use different methods and how to combine them to better understand and visualise causal pathways.
  • This session of the Causal Pathways Symposium 2023, by Carlisle Levine and Hippolyt Pul, introduces outcome harvesting, a method to collect evidence of what has changed and whether and how an intervention has contributed to these changes.
  • This session of the Causal Pathways Symposium 2023, by Fiona Remnant and James Copestake, discusses QuIP, a non-experimental goal-free approach to impact evaluation that can map and analyze causal mechanisms.
  • This session of the Causal Pathways Symposium 2023, by Melanie Punton, is an introduction to Realist Evaluation, a theory-based evaluation approach based on the idea that interventions do not work for everyone, all the time.
  • This session of the Causal Pathways Symposium 2023, by Marina Apgar, Leslie Wingender, and Helene Bradburn, introduces the inclusive rigour framework.
  • This 2022 document by members of the Causal Pathways Initiative articulates a shared understanding of the concept of “causal pathways'' in evaluation and strategy.
  • Contribution analysis is an evaluation approach that provides a systematic way of understanding an intervention's contribution to observed outcomes or impacts.
  • We are pleased to launch the Causal Pathways Resource Hub: A set of new and revised pages on BetterEvaluation, developed in partnership with the Causal Pathways Initiative.
  • This 2021 paper, updated in 2024, advocates for more causal analysis in philanthropic evaluation - not just describing actions taken and changes observed, but also learning how and why change occurred.
  • This report from 2021 shares findings from an investigation into how social change agents, including philanthropists, can better understand and learn from ongoing changes and improve their strategies now and in the future.
  • Outcome Harvesting collects (“harvests”) evidence of what has changed (“outcomes”) and, working backwards, determines whether and how an intervention has contributed to these changes.
  • Outcome Mapping is an approach that helps unpack an initiative’s theory of change and provides a framework to collect data on the immediate, basic changes that lead to longer, more transformative change.
  • Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) is an evaluation approach that supports causal reasoning by examining how different conditions contribute to an outcome.
  • The Qualitative Impact Assessment Protocol (QuIP) is an impact evaluation approach that collects and documents narrative causal statements directly from those affected by an intervention.
  • Realist evaluation aims to identify the underlying generative causal mechanisms that explain how outcomes were caused and how context influences these.