What is the theory of change for the complex intervention?

  • Theories of change often guide the implementation of complex interventions describing how the initiative is expected to lead to improvements. Many complex initiatives have the freedom to contextualize the initiative to their own context, but evaluation frameworks frequently treat this heterogeneity as background “noise” that needs to be filtered out. In evaluations, one needs to:
  • Be explicit (as far as possible) about the mechanisms needed to impact outcomes and capture the ways in which different settings implement these mechanisms differently ;
  • Define what key terms in the program theory mean in different settings before there is movement to operationalize and measure key concepts (such as community capacity or community social capital). The measurement cart should not be driving the conceptual horse, so conceptualization should respect heterogeneous understandings across settings and stakeholders;
  • Be explicit about the key assumptions in the program theory and which of these assumptions will be tested by the evaluation;
  • Describe the theory in a way that can aid implementation and conceptualize `local` aspects that are critical in implementing the intervention;
  • Describe a process and strategy for updating the theory of change as lessons are learned from the implementation of the initiative.

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