Evaluative tools in impact investing: Three case studies on the use of theories of change

This article reviews three case studies to demonstrate how theories of change are useful for communicating impact, identifying indicators to be measured and the critical analysis of the underlying logic of an impact investment.

This resource and the following information was contributed by Kaye Stevens.

Authors and their affiliation

Noel B. Verrinder: Evaluation for Development Practice, Genesis Analytics, United Kingdom

Kagiso Zwane and Debby Nixon: Evaluation for Development Practice, Genesis Analytics, South Africa

Sara Vaca: Private, Madrid, Spain 

Key features 

The article provides an overview of impact investing and approaches and tools for measuring impact in use across the sector. Three organisations involved in impact investing, operating in Africa and using theories of change to describe how their activities contribute to intended impacts were reviewed to identify:

  • The background and context of each case study
  • The challenges that each organisation addressed by exploring theories of change
  • Processes for developing the theory of change
  • Outputs - a description of the theory of change
  • Outcomes - benefits of using the theory of change

Each of the case studies used theories of change to communicate and generate understanding of the mechanisms driving the achievement of impacts both internally and with external stakeholders. They needed plausible explanations of how the organisation was contributing to outcomes and to identify what to measure to show evidence of how the organisation was contributing to change.

While time-consuming, the process of developing a theory of change involved self-reflection and criticism that resulted in a stronger belief, internally and externally, in the work of the organisation. Each organisation adapted the process to generate a theory of change that resonated with staff. 

How have you used or intend on using this resource?

 This article provides a rationale for the use of theories of change as well as real-world examples of the processes and challenges for developing a theory of change. 

Why would you recommend it to other people?

This is a useful resource for organisations seeking to build evidence and shared understanding about how activities are contributing to impacts.


Verrinder, N.B., Zwane, K., Nixon, D. & Vaca, S., 2018, ‘Evaluative tools in impact investing: Three case studies on the use of theories of change’, African Evaluation Journal 6(2), a340. https://doi.org/10.4102/aej.v6i2.340