Review of the use of ‘Theory of Change’ in international development

This report from the UK Government's Department for International Development (DfID) reviews the use of theory of change in the international development field in order to learn and further broaden its use of this area of practice.

“Key messages from the review

‘Theory of change’ as an approach is not new. It has much in common with other approaches. Many people consider that the current interest in theory of change reflects a need to re-emphasise the deeper analysis that the original Logical Framework Analysis was designed to elicit but that has recently become a more superficial contractual exercise.

  1. Theory of change requires both logical thinking and deeper critical reflection
  2. Consensus exists on the basic elements of theory of change
  3. Theory of change is best kept flexible, not prescribed
  4. Theory of change inspires and supports innovation and improvement in programmes
  5. Working with theory of change requires performance management approaches to accommodate uncertainty and flexibility” (Vogel, 2012)


  • Section 1: Executive Summary
  • Section 2: Who is using theory of change in international development?
  • Section 3: What is ‘theory of change thinking’ in practice?
  • Section 4: Why are the ‘assumptions’ so important in theory of change?
  • Section 5: What makes a good quality theory of change process and product?
  • Section 6: Representing theories of change
  • Section 7: Using evidence to support a theory of change process?
  • Section 8: Using theory of change thinking to support evaluation, impact assessment and learning
  • Section 9: Using theory of change to address complex aspects of programmes and emergent strategy
  • Section 10: Embedding on-going theory of change thinking and learning
  • Section 11: Conclusions


Vogel, I. Department for International Development (DfID), (2012). Review of the use of ‘theory of change’ in international development. Retrieved from website:

Paper originally sourced from Monitoring and Evaluation NEWS