We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham Research Online
You are in:

Theorising theories of change in international development

Cieslik, Katarzyna and Leeuwis, Cees (2021) 'Theorising theories of change in international development.', in The Politics of Knowledge in Inclusive Development and Innovation. London: Routledge, pp. 165-180.


Theories of change (ToCs) are development tools that describe how a certain set up of conditions and actions leads to producing specific results. They are used to design, monitor, evaluate, and scale interventions and are increasingly required by both donor and research agencies. In this paper, we explore the links between theories of change and actual social scientific theories about change, which have not been explored in academic literature. We make three essential contributions. First, we explain how the rising interest in evidence-based policy fuelled the evolution of development management tools, including Logit Models, Log Frames and theories of change. Second, we argue that the narrow understanding of ‘research evidence’ resulted in scientific contributions being limited to conducting experimental evaluations (RCTs) meant to test and validate the projects’ theories of change. This we criticise as both methodologically unsound and epistemologically limiting. Third, we introduce alternative sources of ‘evidence’ that credit the social science theories and methods and engage meaningfully with local stakeholders (target communities and implementing staff).

Item Type:Book chapter
Full text:(VoR) Version of Record
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 4.0.
Download PDF
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:The Open Access version of this book, available at www.taylorfrancis .com, has been made available under a Creative Commons AttributionNon Commercial-No Derivatives 4.0 license.
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:10 May 2022
Date of first online publication:15 October 2021
Date first made open access:10 May 2022

Save or Share this output

Look up in GoogleScholar