Theory of change

This guide, written by Patricia Rogers for UNICEF, looks at the use of theory of change in an impact evaluation.

It demonstrates how it can be useful for identifying the data that needs to be collected and how it should be analysed. It also highlights its use as a framework for reporting.


"A ‘theory of change’ explains how activities are understood to produce a series of results that contribute to achieving the final intended impacts. It can be developed for any level of intervention – an event, a project, a programme, a policy, a strategy or an organization.

A theory of change can be developed for an intervention:

  • where objectives and activities can be identified and tightly planned beforehand, or
  • that changes and adapts in response to emerging issues and to decisions made by partners and other stakeholders.

Sometimes the term is used generally to refer to any version of this process, including a results chain, which shows a series of boxes from inputs to outputs, outcomes and impacts (see figure 1), or a logframe, which represents the same information in a matrix."


  • Theory of change: a brief description
  • When is it appropriate to use a theory of change?
  • How to develop a theory of change
  • How to use a theory of change for an impact evaluation
  • Ethical issues and practical limitations
  • Which other methods work well with this one?
  • Presentation of a theory of change
  • Examples of good practices
  • Examples of challenges


Rogers, P. (2014). Theory of Change. UNICEF. Retrieved from:



'Theory of change' is referenced in: