Learning about theories of change for the monitoring and evaluation of research uptake

The paper, published by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), captures lessons from recent experiences on using ‘theories of change’ amongst organisations involved in the research–policy interface.


The paper considers why it is often a challenge to measure results in this area, sets out the benefits of theory-based approaches, and then reviews recent lessons that emanate from attempts to develop theories of change for research uptake programmes. The paper concludes that theories of change are difficult to do well, and they provide no simple solution. All too often theories of change are regarded as a one-off exercise (as part of programme planning, and initial stakeholder engagement), and yet this produces a rather static basis against which to evaluate achievements. In reality, many of the objectives for research uptake programmes will be refined over time, and staff will gradually gain greater understanding about policy change (with all its unpredictability) in any given context.


  • Challenges in measuring the research-policy interface
  • The rise of theory-based approaches
  • Lessons from practice


Barnett, C. and Gregorowski, R. (2013)Learning about Theories of Change for the Monitoring and Evaluation of Research Uptake. IDS Practice Paper In Brief. ILT Brief 14, September 2013. http://www.ids.ac.uk/publication/learning-about-theories-of-change-for-the-monitoring-and-evaluation-of-research-uptake