Keystone Accountability's guide for developing a theory of change

This guide provides an accessible and easy to follow set of activities for developing a theory of change.

It is particularly useful for C4D initiatives that include participatory communication and dialogue, and other forms of community engagement and social change. It is a good method for Developing a program theory or logic model.

The following information was provided to BetterEvaluation by Jessica Noske-Turner as part of the Evaluating C4D Resource Hub.

The Evaluating C4D Resource Hub sits within BetterEvaluation and houses a growing collection of the available guides, toolkits, tools and methods to use for research monitoring and evaluation (R,M&E) of Communication for Development (C4D) initiatives. The Hub is structured around two combined frameworks:

A circle with spokes and a number of graphics set against a rainbow

C4D Evaluation Framework (represented by the circle) is an approach. It describes the values and principles that guide our decisions in C4D. 

The BetterEvaluation Rainbow Framework (represented by the rainbows) is a structure. It organises the practical tasks into seven categories or 'clusters' and provides options.

While the resource recommendation below discusses the resource specifically in relation to its usefulness for evaluating C4D within the Evaluating C4D Resource Hub's C4D Framework, this resource may also be of use for people working in other contexts and with different frameworks.

Authors and their affiliation


Key features

This tool frames the process of developing a theory of change as a liberating process of interaction and discovery that helps organizations see beyond their familiar frames and habits, understand the full complexity of the change they wish to see, and imagine new solutions in dialogue with others. The theory of change unfolds through a facilitated process of open inquiry and dialogue. There are three main steps, each with a series of interactive activities designed to promote creative and critical thinking. The steps are:

  1. Develop a vision of success
  2. Map the preconditions of success
  3. System Mapping

    How have you used or intend on using this resource?

    This example has been identified as particularly useful for evaluating of communication for development. It was identified as part of a research project in collaboration with UNICEF C4D.

    Why would you recommend it to other people?

    This guide is consistent with the C4D Evaluation Framework in the following ways:

    • Participatory: The guide includes workshop plans to undertake activities with stakeholders
    • Holistic: the guide promotes thinking about systemic and contextual factors, and interrelationships.
    • Complex: The guide is sensitive to complex and dynamic types of initiatives, explicitly addressing these factors in instructions


    Keystone. (August 2009). Developing a Theory of Change. Available at (Accessed: 21 February 2017).

    'Keystone Accountability's guide for developing a theory of change' is referenced in: