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What is the relevance of the Theory of Change in a Results-based Management approach?

The Theory of Change is an integral part of results-based management. Each program is based on a theory of change – a set of ideas describing how and why the program will work as expected. The theory makes it possible to make the link between the activities and the expected result of the project or program. It is inherent in the design of the program or project and is often based on the knowledge and experience of the program or design team, research, evaluations, best practices or lessons learned.

The Theory of Change re-energizes the analytical roots of results-based management, emphasizing the need to understand the conditions that influence the project as well as the motivations and contributions of various stakeholders. When results-based management is well applied, a project is designed on the basis of an in-depth analysis of the issue to be addressed and the context in which it exists. This analysis allows us to propose an evidence-based solution: the Theory of Change. 

A Theory of Change explains how the intervention should produce the intended results. This theory usually begins with a sequence of events and outcomes (outputs, immediate outcomes, intermediate outcomes, final outcomes) that should take place as a consequence of the initiative. This sequence is usually called the logic model. The theory of change goes further, however: it describes the mechanisms of change, formulates the hypotheses and definitively the risks and the context which could support the theory or prevent it from materializing in the form of observed results.

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