A sense-making framework for processes

‘Theory of Change is a sense-making framework, that informs and guides an ongoing process of critical questioning, analysis and reflection for (distinct but related) processes of strategising, planning, adaptive management, M&E and learning using a combination of existing and new tools for analysis and reflection (‘tools for thought’), depending on what a specific situation requires’ - Hivos

Since quite some time Hivos is searching for an alternative for the 'standard' planning and reporting frameworks that is more responsive and appropriate for Hivos own and partners' practices and that supports strategic thinking and more systematic learning. This need was confirmed by the experience that training in result assessment for partners organisations, as organised since 2004, didn't have the intended effects.

In 2007 this resulted in a pilot in capacity development support to partner organisations using a Theory of Change (ToC) approach, taking a broader perspective to programme design and M&E, and with the explicit objective of strengthening ‘result-oriented organisational practice’. Since then, this process has gone through several phases of experimentation and reflection.

In 2010, Hivos asked a group of consultants (a.o. CDI) who were involved in earlier stages of the support to partners, or otherwise interested in Theory of Change, to support Hivos in an action-learning process, in order to learn systematically from the experiences with ToC thinking and to explore and address some of the challenges Hivos and its partner organisations encountered. The ultimate goal of the process is to strengthen the capacity of all involved for critical reflection on their practice and for strategic action to achieve their goals of social and political change.

The learning trajectory consists of the following components:
  • regional learning processes with partner organisations to explore and document the use of ToC in practice;
  • a series of e-discussions to share views and experiences on topics and questions around ToC and its application in practice;
  • a resource portal on Theory of Change to make resources available to Hivos staff and other actors interested;
  • an internal process to integrate ToC thinking more firmly in Hivos own policy, organisational practice and capacity development of staff.