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

This report, commissioned by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and authored by Isabel Voge, reviews how theory of change is being used in the international development context and in doing so identify consensus, debate and innovation in order to develop a more consistent approach to its use. 

The 86 page report uses a variety of examples to gain a clearer picture of the use of theory of change and includes links to various manuals and guidelines describing its use.


  • Who is using theory of change in international development? 8
  • What is theory of change in practice? 14
  • Example 1: DFID Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): Using theory of change thinking to explore the links between road-building and development 25
  • Why are the ‘assumptions’ so important in theory of change thinking? 26
  • Example 2: Accountability Tanzania (AcT): Applying ‘Models of Change’ thinking to understand  emergent strategies 32
  • What makes a good quality theory of change process and product - or ‘good enough’? 33
  • Example 3: Irish Aid: Using theory of change thinking to clarify programme strategic thinking by not asking for diagrams 36
  • How should theory of change thinking be represented? 37
  • Example 4: Trade Mark East Africa: Mapping the ‘missing middle’ in a complex multi-country, multiimplementing agency programme 39
  • How can evidence be used to support a theory of change process? 40
  • How is theory of change thinking being used for monitoring, evaluation and impact assessment? 43
  • Example 5: AWARD: Tracing empowerment and capacity-building using theory of change thinking for realtime monitoring and evaluation 48
  • How can theory of change thinking help with complex aspects of programmes? 49
  • How can theory of change thinking be embedded as a support to learning through the project cycle? 54
  • Bibliography 63
  • Appendix 1: Guidelines and manuals 66
  • Appendix 2: Contributors to the Review 81
  • Appendix 3: Examples of theories of change 82


This resource was suggested to BetterEvaluation by Paromita


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