Negative programme theory

Most programme theories, logic models and theories of change show how an intervention is expected to contribute to positive impacts; Negative programme theory, a technique developed by Carol Weiss, shows how it might produce negative impacts.

A negative programme theory is constructed using the same processes used to construct a positive programme theory - talking to people about how the intervention works, observing the programme (if it is currently running), drawing on previous research and literature, and using analogies with similar programmes - but with possible negative impacts at the end of the logic model rather than the intended positive impacts.

These negative impacts might be:

  • the reverse of the intended ones (for example, if the programme aims to produce improved educational achievement, a possible negative impact would be reduced educational achievement),
  • or different types of impacts (for example a programme that aims to improve household income might increase deforestation).

Funnell, S., & Rogers, P. (2011). Purposeful program theory: Effective use of theories of change and logic models. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons. 

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