This cluster of evaluation tasks develops an initial description of the program and how it is understood to work. This can be used to:

  • engage stakeholders in the task "understand and engage stakeholders" from the 'Manage' cluster of tasks
  • guide choices about what data to collect in the 'Describe' cluster of tasks
  • inform testing of causal links when planning how to 'Understand Causes'


There are three tasks involved in developing an initial program description and how it is understood to work:

1. Develop an initial description

Develop an initial description of what is to be evaluated, to ensure agreement about the boundaries.

2. Develop program theory / theory of change

Make explicit how activities are understood to contribute to the intended outcomes and impacts. Communicate this in a diagram(s) and/or narrative. (This is useful for most evaluations but not always needed, such as for evaluations of the quality of products).

3. Identify potential unintended results

It is useful and ethical to consider possible negative impacts (that make things worse not better) and how they can be identified before an intervention (project, programme, or policy) is implemented and addressed in an evaluation or M&E System.