Guidance Note: Theory of Change approach to climate change adaptation programming

posted 13 Feb 2014, 19:05 by Mary Coffman   [ updated 13 Feb 2014, 19:05 by Marybell muñoz ajiaco ]
The EcoAdapt Project uses a Theory of Change approach in its project design. This most recent guidance note from Sea Change offers a thorough and nuanced look at the use of ToC in climate change adaptation project design. 

 "Guidance note 3: Theory of Change approach to climate change adaptation programming"
Authors:  Dennis Bours, Colleen McGinn, & Patrick Pringle
Source:  Sea Change Guidance for M&E of climate change interventions
Available for download here:

From the Introduction: ‘Theory of Change’ (ToC) is a critical thinking approach to program design, monitoring, and evaluation which has become increasingly influential in international development. Described as “a roadmap, a blueprint, an engine of change, a theory of action and more” (Stein and Valters 2012: 5), ToC outlines the building blocks and the relationships between them that would lead to the accomplishment of a long-term goal. When done well, this approach enables stakeholders to embed an intervention within a larger strategy and broad, transformative analysis. It is flexible and practical insofar as it clearly articulates a vision of meaningful social change, and then systematically maps out specific steps towards achieving it. ToC is especially well-suited for the design, monitoring, and evaluation of complex, multifaceted, long-term endeavors and ‘wicked problems’ like climate change, conflict transformation, and gender equality. It is not without its critics, however, and there are concerns that if misapplied it might become an onerous (and potentially confusing) bureaucratic requirement rather than a vehicle for transformation. In this Guidance Note, we describe the Theory of Change approach and explain why it is a good fit for climate change adaptation programming. We highlight its differences with the more familiar logic model / logical framework (‘logframe’) approaches – and also show how they can be used together. We go on to guide the reader through the steps of a hypothetical ToC exercise, and then comment on how to avoid the disadvantages and pitfalls that can occur when applying this model. We conclude by highlighting a ‘real world’ example of how one agency has used ToC to enhance its work.