Peacebuilding with Impact: Defining Theories of Change

CARE International's paper, Peacebuilding with Impact: Defining Theories of Change, was created in partnership with International Alert and 21 organisations, government ministries, donor agencies and acadmic institutons.


Peacebuilding with Impact: Defining Theories of Change

Focusing on theories of change can improve the effectiveness of peacebuilding interventions. A review of 19 peacebuilding projects in 3 conflict-affected countries - Uganda, Nepal and the Democratic Republic of the Congo - found that the process of articulating and reviewing theories of change adds rigour and transparency, clarifies project logic, highlights assumptions that need to be tested, and helps identify appropriate participants and partners. However, the approach has limitations, including the difficulty of gathering theory-validating evidence.

 While they are not a panacea, devoting greater attention to theories of change is a simple and relatively inexpensive means of increasing the quality of peacebuilding interventions. Donors and peacebuilding agencies should review their procedures to encourage and accommodate more widespread focus on theories of change, and ensure adequate resources are set aside to allow appropriate monitoring of these theories throughout the life of an intervention.

 A focus on theories of change led to the following key findings:

  •  Clarifying project logic helps highlight tenuous assumptions;
  • Clearly identifying the aims of activities and measures of success strengthens project design;
  • Determining the appropriate actors to work with, and not just the easy-to-reach, enables better programme focus;
  • More explicit links need to be made between local level activities and national peace processes for desired changes to occur;
  • Conflict analysis is critical for determining the relevance of activities but is rarely done;
  • Staff often require support in ensuring their theories of change are sufficiently explicit;
  • Current project planning tools do not help practitioners articulate their theories of change;
  • Gathering evidence to validate a theory of change is challenging, particularly in conditions of conflict and fragility;
  • Critical review of theories of change needs to be undertaken in conjunction with other forms of evaluation to have maximum value;
  • Theories of change can encourage an overly linear approach, when change in conflict contexts can be more organic or systemic.


The report can be found here for download:

Views: 970

Tags: CARE, Change, DM&E, International, Theories, of, peacebuilding


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Comment by Theory of Change Community on February 21, 2012 at 3:54pm
Thanks for posting this important report. We hope others can benefit from its insights. I'd like to invite you to join our Theory of Change Community group here on PCDN. You can also visit our Theory of Change Community website at
Comment by Rey T on February 20, 2012 at 10:59am

Thanks for sharing. This is an important document that would guide us in clarifying theories regarding our actual work in bringing about change.

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