Our theory of change

We are working towards a new theory of change that will reflect IIED’s evolving approach to our work and will create the fast and large-scale positive changes we need to see.

A theory of change explains how change happens, and how interventions can shape that change. 

An effective theory of change helps to guide the development of evidence-based programme strategies, informs project monitoring and management, and provides a framework for evaluation and impact assessment.

Our developing theory of change

Our previous theory of change, introduced in 2014, was built around three elements: evidence, connections and capacity. Our new theory of change develops this further and is built around:

  • Alliances
  • Bridges
  • Capabilities
  • Diversity, and
  • Evidence.

The starting point is a systems approach to tackling the complex triple crises of climate, nature and inequality. The desired outcome is being able to inform and influence behaviours, decisions, events, policies and structures. The goal is positive change for a thriving world.

This is a ‘work-in-progress’, and our preliminary thinking is represented in the graphic below. 

Insights, learning and adaptation

Systems approach to tackling complex triple crises: climate, nature, inequality
IIED catalyses diverse stakeholders to act with shared intent, harnessing complementary strengths
IIED builds bridges between local experience and voices and key national and international policy and processes and vice versa
IIED helps marginalised communities and decision makers develop capabilities that reflect ground-level realities in policy and programming
IIED strives to bring diverse opinions, knowledge and world views together to help to understand and unlock positive change for people and nature
IIED generates evidence based on practice – what works – to support accountability and help people advocate for climate and social justice
Inform and influence behaviours, decisions, events, policies and structures

Clear communication that engages appropriate audiences who influence change

Why a new theory of change?

In a world of increasing unpredictability, there is an urgent need to work dynamically to overcome key blockers and create fast and large-scale positive change. 

IIED’s current theory of change suggests that improved capability, stronger connections between different stakeholders and new evidence is the way to drive progress towards equitable/effective governance, more resources, and strengthened voice and rights for people living in poverty and exclusion. 

We want to grow this by bringing together a dynamic portfolio of IIED and partner interventions through alliances. This will allow us to influence changes that are in line with the six propositions in our manifesto.

We also recognise the importance of learning as we go, and rapidly adapting to changes in the world, along with the need for very clear communication of our findings with partners to inform and influence the audiences that hold the power to create positive change for a thriving world.

To test this approach, we will enhance our existing theory of change within the next year with the key hypotheses included in the manifesto, such as identifying four key ‘blockers’ to change. We will then use it to generate new indicators that can be assessed through our monitoring, evaluation and learning system.