To ensure that P/CVE projects are designed to have tangible impact, consider developing a Theory of Change (ToC) to articulate why and how your project will meet your goals. The section below introduces some useful tips and exercises to develop a ToC which will help you plan your activities and connect them to the change you seek to make. You may already be implementing activities to prevent or counter VE. In this case, a ToC can help you articulate the purpose of your project and its relation to P/CVE goals. It is also an opportunity to determine whether you should alter your approach and redesign your project. This process will also help to inform a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) plan, discussed in the Monitor & Evaluate module.
According to USAID, a Theory of Change (ToC) “describes how and why the process of change is expected to take place and how your organization intends to directly and/or indirectly work to influence desired change and achieve the stated Project Purpose.”
- Theories of change are short statements that clarify the logic and rationale of the project’s purpose. They explain the “what, how and why” of the expected change.
A carefully structured ToC should help you to:
- clarify which dynamics and drivers are leading to radicalization and recruitment of within the local system you are addressing, and your entry points within that system;
- state clearly the goals of the project, related to preventing and/or countering violent extremism; and
- fully articulate how and why the project will address the dynamics and drivers of violent extremism to achieve its goals.
Theories of change are often expressed as “if/then” statements; “If we do X (action), then we will produce Y (change/shift towards peace, stability, security).” To ensure conflict sensitivity it is also recommended to add the underlying assumptions and logic of why we think X will produce Y, by adding Z – “because.” This “because” statement serves to highlight our assumptions – and related risks–and how we will address them through programming.
Before you construct your Theory of Change, here is a group exercise to help you consider the goals and objectives of your project:
- It’s the end of the project, and a news reporter is writing an article about the major changes that your program has contributed to. What changes will the reporter write about? What are three characteristics that would describe this impact?
- Write up to three big picture goals or achievements that have resulted from the project. Group similar responses together based on thematic areas. Then review and prioritize the goals as a large group. Next, detail together the assumptions that must hold true to be able to achieve these prioritized goals.
USAID’s Theories and Indicators of Change (THINC) Matrix summarizes the major theories of change in the practice of conflict management, prevention, and resolution. The THINC Matrix can help you develop your Theory of Change.