Theory of Change Approaches to Post-conflict Governance Programming


Identify and review cases where the Theory of Change approach has been applied in the design and/or evaluation of governance sector programmes in post-conflict and fragile developing contexts. Where possible, focus on governance programmes relating to public sector management, accountability and public financial management for improved service delivery. Identify particular challenges in applying the Theory of Change model to governance sector interventions.


In its simplest form, Theory of Change (ToC) can be defined as, ‘the description of a sequence of events that is expected to lead to a particular desired outcome’ (Davies 2012). This research report considers the application of ToC to governance programmes in post-conflict and fragile states. It should be noted that, because of what information is available, the examples reviewed in this report are from post-conflict and least developed (though not necessarily fragile) states. They are mainly (but not all explicitly) governance-focused, and while some have elements of accountability, public sector management and public service delivery, none are about public financial management.

The case studies discussed show that articulating and reviewing Theories of Change in peacebuilding programmes adds rigour and transparency, clarifies project logic, highlights assumptions that need to be tested and helps identify appropriate participants and partners.

Yet, for ToC application to be effective, particularly in governance settings, a number of factors need to be taken into consideration, including:

  • Conflict analysis is critical for determining the relevance of activities in post-conflict contexts but is rarely done.
  • Gathering evidence to validate a Theory of Change is challenging, particularly in conditions of conflict and fragility.
  • Theories of Change can encourage an overly linear approach, when the reality of change in conflict contexts is complex and more organic.
  • People involved, both staff and programme participants, may require a lot of support to understand the dynamics and effective use of ToC.