The Value of Theory of Change in Large-Scale Projects and Complex Interventions

19th November 2019
Author: Robin Richards

This rapid literature review concentrates on the role that theory of change plays at the programmatic level, and if there are examples that illustrate how theory of change can be used to pull together nested theories of change in large programmes comprising a portfolio of activities and interventions. A subsidiary component to the review was to see if there are documented examples on the effectiveness of theories of change in contributing to project outcomes. Theory of change (ToC), including the use of nested theories of change, are a valuable method in the management of extensive projects with a portfolio of activities. They are valuable because they facilitate the tracking of projects’ activities and outputs through breaking down complex projects into simpler components which then can be understood in relation to their individual activities and outputs, and how these contribute to the meta-level and the attainment of programme outcomes. The literature was mostly from grey and donor sources, including published and unpublished papers and research reports of development, research and evaluation consultancies. To a lesser extent, academic literature (journal articles) was used. However, the literature is weak on evidence and specific examples of the effectiveness of using theories of change at the broader programme level and how these improve programme outcomes.

Download Report
Suggested Citation

Richards, R. (2019). The Value of Theory of Change at the Portfolio Level in Large-Scale Projects. K4D Helpdesk Report. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies.


19th November 2019


Continent: Global