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.
IIED introduced its theory of change in 2014. The framework identifies three types of change, linked to the strategic challenges the institute has identified:
- Intermediate outcomes (as shown in the diagram) are the desired changes that can be directly attributed to IIED activity
- Longer term outcomes (as shown in the diagram) are the changes to policy, practice, voice and agency generated by the combined effects of IIED intermediate outcomes, and
- Impacts relate to the sustained changes produced either directly or indirectly by the combination of several IIED interventions.
Our theory of change (illustrated above) is built around three intermediate outcome areas:
- Generating new types of evidence to support sustainable development
- Improving connections and interactions between different types of actors
- Improving capacities of actors to create and use evidence.
These intermediate outcome areas are the means by which we address the global challenges we have identified in our strategy (2019-2024), and will contribute to the achievement of longer-term outcomes and impacts.
The longer term outcomes relate to equitable and effective governance, increased resources for people living in poverty, and strengthened voice and rights of excluded and less powerful actors.
Applying our theory of change
Our institutional theory of change will guide us in developing detailed theories of change at programme and project levels. These nested theories of change will inform our new Learning and Impact framework and enable us to be more systematic and strategic in monitoring our impact.
We believe that policy and social change are not rational and linear processes. Instead, they emerge from many different angles of influence and types of knowledge creation and are shaped by imbalances in power and voice. Our assumption is that changes in the body, use and framing of knowledge can help shape policy and practice at different levels, from local to global.
For this to happen, we need to ensure that a range of relevant people and parties are strategically engaged in knowledge generation: decision makers, local communities, influencers, communication and knowledge brokers, and researchers.
To ensure this engagement is effective, we work in ways that question and change power dynamics between the different actors involved. Our 'co-creation' approach results in powerful propositions that bring about changes in policy and practice.
Our key ways of working include:
- Convening dialogues for transformative change: our multi-stakeholder dialogues connect communities lacking voice and power with decision makers - including government, development practitioners, business, academics and technicians. We facilitate the co-creation of evidence with local people, reflecting their concerns and helping to make the case for embedding social and environmental justice in policy and practice.
- Engaging practitioners and policymakers: we identify strategic opportunities for policy intervention at local, national and global levels. IIED has a track record of working with decision makers to strengthen their capacities for creating and using evidence and help them reflect ground-level realities in policy.
- Providing evidence and ideas to transform policy and practice: action research with local actors and partners enables us to develop practical solutions that support pro-poor governance. Together, we present policymakers and the private sector with a rigorously researched evidence base for fairer ways forward, from local to global scale.
- Empowering the excluded: we help overlooked people and communities to generate and use evidence and hold their own in decision-making arenas.