The Theory of Change Process – Guidance for Outcome Delivery Plans

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Owner:The Evaluation Support Team
Who this is for:Beginners and less experienced users of Theory of Change

Who this toolkit is for

This toolkit has been developed to support the development of departmental Outcome Delivery Plans, and can be used by civil servants working across government, regardless of grade, department, background, or profession, to get an overview of the Theory of Change approach. If you have a role in the planning, implementation or evaluation of an intervention, whether that is a project, programme, policy, or government service, you should consider adopting a Theory of Change approach.

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Introducing Theory of Change

When you are designing and implementing a new policy, programme, or process, it can be hard to see how the planned activities will lead to the desired outputs. There are often complexities which can affect the success of the initiative, such as assumptions we have to make about the effects of our actions, and dependencies on other stakeholders. Only by clearly considering and highlighting these complexities can you maximise the chances of achieving your aims and effectively evaluating the outcomes. Theory of Change (TOC) is a methodology for planning, monitoring, and evaluating an initiative. It enables the responsible team to clearly consider and highlight these complexities, and to agree these with relevant stakeholders. TOC is a tool that strengthens decision-making processes by ensuring all stakeholders are aligned and that you have identified existing evidence, assumptions, and associated risks.

For example, the Home Office (HO) used a TOC approach to develop an intervention to improve the integration of refugees into the UK. To do this, they spoke to relevant stakeholders such as charities, refugee groups, and other government departments. They agreed their ultimate goal should be to create communities where people, whatever their background, can live, work, learn and socialise together based on shared rights, responsibilities, and opportunities. Then they looked at what would need to change to achieve this goal. All outcomes in the TOC are supported and influenced by each other, suggesting the importance of collaborative planning and implementation of integration interventions. By using a TOC approach, they developed a clear agreement of their ultimate aims, decided how they would achieve them, and formed a clear plan for how to monitor progress and evaluate success. This meant that services could be better coordinated and targeted to address the structural barriers faced by particular groups of immigrants living in particular regions. You can read more about this example Theory of Change on GOV.UK.

Please note that we use the word ‘intervention’ to refer to new or modified processes, policies or projects for which we would recommend using a TOC approach. This includes those that might apply to individuals, wider groups, or to the entire population.

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Why a Theory of Change will strengthen your intervention

TOC provides a great opportunity to ensure your thinking is consistent from the design stage to the post implementation stages in all decision-making processes. One of the main challenges that people often face with projects and programmes is knowing what actions are most likely to lead to their desired changes. When you produce a good TOC you will have:

  • a clear description of what you want and the most efficient way of getting there
  • an agreement amongst your stakeholders about how they define success, what data should be collected, and when and how to measure success
  • a clear process to draw on existing research and theory about how change works in your specific context
  • a plan for monitoring and evaluation to help you identify the most useful lines of enquiries, understand what works, and learn from failures
  • a visual representation of the change you want to see
  • a powerful communication tool that captures the complex processes involved
  • a framework that helps your funders understand how working with you will help them achieve their own objectives

A TOC is a useful planning tool to help you clearly understand your programme, and any assumptions, risks, and complexities in the context of the programme. This clarity about the context of the intervention, vision, actions, assumptions, and available evidence will provide the basis for planning an evaluation that is proportionate to available resources. This will help everyone understand the conditions that will lead to success for your intervention and how it can be adapted to new situations. This makes a TOC an important part of good policy making.

The scale and level of detail needed in a TOC will vary depending on the intervention. Your TOC should be designed in proportion to the size of the intervention, its significance, and the risk associated with it. This is known as proportionality.

There are several resources we would recommend looking at:

Case study example on use of TOC programmes and projects

You can see a case study example on the Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMA) Facility website. Select the ‘NAMA facility 2nd Interim Evaluation – Learning Report – Theory of Change’ link to download the PDF. Read pages 3 to 5 starting from the section called ‘How TOC is used within the NAMA Facility’.

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When to apply a Theory of Change approach

TOC is a flexible tool that can be used before, during and after an intervention. But it is most effective at the design stages of an intervention. This is because it will support you in designing your policy or service in a way that will optimise achieving the outcome you are looking for.

Developing a TOC at the design stage will ensure consensus on long-term goals. It will help you describe any assumptions so they can be tested, and explain any changes that will be needed to achieve the long-term goal. This will provide the basis for developing the most relevant evaluation methodology to measure success.  However, TOC can be applied at any stage to make decisions, review processes, clarify direction, agree next actions, and communicate the vision for an intervention in a way that is understandable to all users.

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How to develop a Theory of Change

You should develop your TOC with your stakeholders to ensure a range of views are considered and help you reach a consensus. We recommend you organise workshops to have these conversations.

The development of a TOC should be proportionate to the available resources for an intervention. For example, a simpler approach can be taken for a smaller or more straightforward intervention, whereas a larger programme would need a more detailed approach.

You can develop a TOC for your intervention by following the 11 steps outlined in this toolkit and using the resources provided.

Once you have developed a TOC, you can use this to develop a TOC diagram. The diagram will help you visually map out your intervention, develop a clear set of goals, and create a narrative to explain how you intend to reach these goals. You should return to these goals as you develop a monitoring and evaluation plan.

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How to use this toolkit

The context and circumstances around your specific project or programme will determine how you develop your TOC, so this toolkit is not intended to be comprehensive or prescriptive. The aim is to provide a starting point to help less experienced users with TOC development. The toolkit describes the development and use of a TOC in different contexts across government and non-governmental organisations. It is designed to guide the implementation and evaluation of decision-making processes and interventions.

The toolkit presents examples of good practice using a variety of approaches, as no single approach will work in every context. There is a well-established literature on broader methods for developing a TOC, and we reference further guidance and resources throughout. Users of this toolkit are encouraged to read the Magenta Book, the Green Book and other relevant resources linked in this toolkit to further develop their thinking on this topic. We also recommend policy makers and operational colleagues engage with analysts and social researchers in their departments as early as possible to maximise analytical output and collaborative working.

There are many different approaches to developing a TOC but whatever the approach, a TOC will help you implement the most targeted and efficient intervention. The toolkit collates adaptable resources and gives examples of applications to support the development, implementation, and review of TOCs within organisations.


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Step 1: Identify stakeholders and agree intended impact

Stakeholder engagement is important for developing the TOC to encourage a diverse range of views and improve outcomes. This engagement often involves interviews and workshops to understand the needs of your stakeholders and the context of their work.

Stakeholders include everyone who is directly or indirectly affected by, or has influence on, the outcomes of the project or programme.

An effective TOC should take a broad view of the topic by considering the views and experiences of a wide range of stakeholders.

Before you begin the process of identifying your stakeholders it is helpful to consider the following questions:

  1. Who is affected by this programme?
  2. Who may have influence on decisions?
  3. Who knows about the area of the programme?
  4. Who has an interest in the programme?
  5. Who contributes to the programme?
  6. Who can enhance the scope of the issues being considered?
  7. Who can help identify other stakeholders?
  8. Who can adequately represent those with different viewpoints?

Once you have considered these questions and identified your stakeholders, it is then helpful to do some ‘stakeholder mapping’. This involves looking at the extent to which each stakeholder can add value to the programme and how you can communicate, interact with, and manage them. It can include assigning a level of importance to each of your stakeholders based on their relationship, interest, and influence in relation to the intervention. For example, the impact of stakeholders may be noted as ‘low’, ‘medium’, or ‘high’ to support stakeholder engagement activities.

We recommend you review whether any stakeholders have been missed over the course of the programme, especially if priorities change, and ask for their input to review your TOC.

Useful tools to help you identify, engage with, and manage stakeholders

You can access the ‘Tools for Policy Impact: A Handbook for Researchers’ on the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) website. Follow the ‘Manual/Toolkit’ link and go to page 26 to read section 7, called ‘Stakeholder Analysis’.

Case study examples for engaging stakeholders

There are two resources we would recommend looking at:

How to do stakeholder interviews

There are two resources we would recommend looking at:

Editable stakeholder mapping template

You can access an editable stakeholder mapping template on the Defra website. Select the ‘3. Defra TOC Tool Annexes’ link in the ‘Project Documents’ section to download the PowerPoint file. Go to slide 10 of the PowerPoint file to see the section called ‘ToC narrative – stakeholders’ template (Phase 1 – Step 3)’.

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Step 2: Collect evidence and establish context on your proposed Theory of Change

When you are developing a TOC it is very important to establish a clear sense of the problem you are trying to solve and any existing evidence. You should work with analysts to gather and assess any existing evidence relevant to the programme to support this process.

Evidence can come from a variety of sources including academic literature, non-academic reports, and the experience of stakeholders. This is a process known as synthesis of existing evidence.

You should ask yourself the following questions during the TOC development process:

  1. What is the change that your programme is trying to achieve?
  2. Why do you think this change is needed?
  3. How will you achieve this change?
  4. What is the context that might affect the TOC?
  5. Who will benefit?
  6. What is the most appropriate intervention for this process of change?
  7. Are there alternative strategies to meet your aims?
  8. What does existing evidence say about what works?

You should refine your TOC based on the evidence you find. This is an ongoing, iterative process. The quality of the evidence will determine the extent to which causality can be established between inputs, outputs, outcomes, and impacts. Causal links show which activities lead to which outputs, which outputs lead to which outcomes, and which outcomes lead to which impacts.

You can:

Practical resources and case study examples on synthesising existing evidence

There are several resources we would recommend looking at:

Case study examples of evidence synthesis in TOCs

You can read some examples of TOCs on GOV.UK. Select the ‘Appendix 3: Examples of Theories of Change’ link to open the PDF. Go to page 13 of the PDF file to look at ‘Annex 3’, and particularly the box labelled ‘EVIDENCE linking’.

Case study example of how to clarify a problem

You can read a case study example of how to clarify a problem on GOV.UK. Read the section called ‘3. Problem analysis’.

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Step 3: Identify impacts, or long-term goals

It is important to understand the long-term effect you would like your intervention to have and this is best achieved by working with your stakeholders. This can help you achieve your aims more effectively. These long-term goals you intend to achieve are known as ‘impacts’.

When identifying impacts, it can be useful to consider questions such as:

  1. What is the desired effect of your programme?
  2. What are the success criteria for the programme?
  3. What is the overall change your programme is trying to achieve?
  4. How does this align to your organisational or strategic goals?

Impacts could look like the following examples from the Department for International Development:

  • ‘[W]omen able to travel outside place of residence without male escort (50% increase over control groups)’
  • ‘35% decrease malnourishment rate amongst children below 5 years over control groups’

How to identify impacts

You can access a PDF version of ‘Theory of change in ten steps’ on the New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) website. Select the ‘Download’ link to download the PDF. For information about identifying impact, go to page 13 and read the section called ‘Step 3: Impact’.

You can find more information about identifying long-term goals on the Centre for Theory of Change website.

Examples of impacts from previous programmes or projects

You can access the ‘Violence reduction unit year ending March 2021 evaluation report’ on GOV.UK. Look at the section called ‘1.3 VRU Theory of Change’ to see ‘Figure 1.1: Programme-level Theory of Change (ToC) for Violence Reduction Units (VRUs)’.

Editable TOC narrative template for mapping out main objectives and enablers

You can access an editable TOC narrative template for mapping out main objectives and enablers on the Defra website. Select the ‘3. Defra TOC Tool Annexes’ link in the ‘Project Documents’ section to download the PowerPoint file. Go to slide 9 of the PowerPoint file to read the section called ‘ToC narrative – main objectives and enablers template (Phase 1 – Step 2)’.

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Step 4: Define your outcomes

After you have identified the impact you want to have, it is then important to work backwards to really understand the changes and achieve this impact. These are known as ‘outcomes’.

When you are writing your outcomes, it can be useful to consider the changes in behaviour, wellbeing, attitudes, skills, and abilities you expect to see. Use words like ‘increased’, ‘improved’, ‘enhanced’ or ‘reduced’ to describe the outcomes you would like your programme to have. Try to ensure your outcomes are Smart, Achievable, Realistic, Measurable and Time-bound (SMART).

An example outcome could be:

‘[Increase to] 38% of long-term unemployed participants who complete their participation receiving an offer of employment, continued education, apprenticeship, or traineeship upon leaving’. This is an outcome written by the Department for Work and Pensions in 2022 in their Impact Evaluation for their Youth Employment Initiative.

Another example of an outcome could be:

‘Improve reading proficiency among children in Grades 5-6 by 20% within 3 years’. This is an example of an outcome from the tools4dev website.

If you need to use the word ‘and’ this is an indication that you need to create a new, separate outcome.

Your outcomes can also be split into short-term and medium-term outcomes where appropriate.

Useful tools for describing your outcomes

You can find guidance to help you describe your outcomes on the Center for Theory of Change website.

Outcomes and indicators

There are several resources that we would recommend looking at:

Case study outcome frameworks

You can see two case study outcome frameworks on GOV.UK:

Example of measurable outcomes

You can see some examples of measurable outcomes on GOV.UK. Go to section 6 to read the section called ‘Annex A: Theory of change’.

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Step 5: Identify outputs and activities

Outputs are products, services, or facilities that will be direct results of your activities. These outputs will be how you achieve your outcomes. Work backwards from your outcomes and think about what outputs will be needed to bring them about.

Outputs represent anything that is being created like workshops, resources, and courses. It could also include infrastructures such as buildings, new medical equipment, or new law. Specific examples from the Violence Reduction Unit include ‘[developing] engagement events and communications to increase awareness of the VRU’ and the ‘number of (at-risk) young people, parents or communities receiving timely and appropriate interventions’. You can read more about these example outputs in the ‘Violence reduction unit year ending March 2021 evaluation report’ on GOV.UK.

When you are defining your outputs, it can be useful to consider questions such as:

  1. What is the direct result of these activities?
  2. What outputs need to be produced to achieve your outcomes?

Activities are what you do to provide a product or service. At this point, think about what activities to include in your TOC to achieve your outputs. This should include anything that you will do on a day-to-day basis as part of the programme. For example, your activities could include ‘[b]uilding relationships with key stakeholders across government including the policy, analytical and finance community’ and ‘develop[ing] data sharing project and requirements’. These are activities from Evaluation Task Force’s Theory of Change.

It is important to have a clear sense of the activities which could help you to reach your desired goals. This will help you work out what is achievable and where there might be gaps.

Useful points to consider when identifying outputs

You can find some information to help you identify outputs on GOV.UK. Select the ‘Logic mapping hints and tips’ link to download the PDF and go to page 13 to read the section called ‘2.5. Step four: identifying the outputs’. You can also request an accessible version of this document by emailing

Outputs and activities

There are several resources that will give you more information about outputs and activities:

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Step 6: Identify inputs

It is important to understand the inputs you can use to achieve your aims. This will help you ensure you use your resources effectively and efficiently.

Inputs could include resources such as funding, existing structures, people and partners, intelligence, and policies.

When defining the inputs, it can be useful to consider questions such as:

  1. What resources do you have available?
  2. What limitations are there on your resources?

When you are thinking about the limitations on resources you might consider secondary questions like:

  1. Is your budget ring-fenced for a specific purpose?
  2. Do the people you can deploy have the correct skills?
  3. Is there a time-constraint on the availability of facilities?

Advice on how to create your list of inputs

You can find information to help you create your list of inputs on GOV.UK. Select the ‘Logic mapping hints and tips’ link to download the PDF. Then go to page 14 to read the section called ‘2.6. Step five: creating a list of inputs’. You can also request an accessible version of this document by emailing

Examples of inputs from previous programmes or projects and how they fit into a TOC diagram

There are two examples we would recommend looking at:

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Step 7: Clearly state your assumptions

This provides the opportunity for stakeholders to understand any assumptions about the change you want to achieve and how to achieve it. It can also provide an opportunity to build consensus. Assumptions are the underlying conditions that are necessary for intended change to occur. They can be related to:

  • the links between inputs, outputs, and outcomes
  • the reach of the programme
  • the role of other activities and actors
  • the responsibilities of operational colleagues
  • the amount of staff time needed for the programme activities

For example, the outcome of “long-term employment at liveable wages for domestic violence survivors” can only be achieved if it is assumed that there are jobs available in non-traditional skills for women. Similarly, the outcome that “survivors have marketable skills in non-traditional jobs” can only be achieved if it is assumed that women can learn non-traditional skills and compete in the marketplace. These are example assumptions from the Center for Theory of Change website.

It is important to make sure your assumptions are supported by available evidence. Applying a TOC approach will make these assumptions clear and assess the strength of evidence that underpins them. You also need to consider how you will monitor and review your assumptions. These evidence needs should be represented in your monitoring and evaluation plan.

When you are defining the assumptions, it can be useful to consider questions such as:

  1. What assumptions, tested and untested, are you making for this programme to work?
  2. What beliefs, attitudes, behaviours, and values have shaped your Theory of Change?
  3. What evidence is there to support the links you are including in your plan?
  4. What is the quality of this evidence and how reliable is it?
  5. What has worked well in previous programmes?
  6. What do you expect to remain the same for your programme to be carried out as planned?

How to identify and communicate your assumptions

We recommend two resources to help you identify and communicate your assumptions:

How you might use indicators and available evidence to test your assumptions

We recommend two resources to help you with this:

How assumptions have been addressed in previous programmes or projects

There are several resources we would recommend looking at:

Editable assumptions template

You can access an editable assumptions template on the Defra website. Select the link called ‘3. Defra TOC Tool Annexes’ in the ‘Project Documents’ section to download the PowerPoint file. Go to slide 6 of the file to read the section called ‘ToC map template – assumptions template (Phase 2 – Step 13)’.

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Step 8: Identify risks

Identifying risks will help you assess the limitations of your programme and develop appropriate plans to minimise negative consequences. Risks are internal or external factors that can influence your programme or project either positively or negatively. Example risks could include:

“Partners and stakeholders fail to cooperate and/or project data may not be shared between stakeholders” or that “climate shocks (floods and droughts) occur during the project implementation”. These are examples of risks from the Climate Analytics website.

When you are defining the risks for your programme of work, it can be useful to consider questions such as:

  1. What is going on outside of our control that we need to be aware of?
  2. What other work is happening in this area?
  3. What can we do to ensure this does not disrupt our causal chains?

External influences may affect your logic and some assumptions might be outside your control. Identifying assumptions will help you consider the risks and limitations of your programme.

Practical advice on identifying risks to your programme or project

You can find guidance on how to identify risks on the Project Risk Coach website.

Risk assessment templates

You can access a risk assessment template on the Defra website. Select the ‘3. Defra TOC Tool Annexes’ link in the ‘Project Documents’ section to download the PowerPoint file. Go to slide 5 of the file to read the section called ‘ToC map – risks and opportunities template (Phase 2 – Step 12)’. Also consider looking at slide 12, which is called ‘ToC narrative – enablers and capabilities template (Phase 1 – Step 4)’ for further advice on how to map out your risks.

You can find a risk potential assessment form on GOV.UK. Select the ‘Risk Potential Assessment Form’ link to download the template as a Word document. You can also request an accessible version of this document by emailing

You can also access a template for a Risk Assessment Matrix from the NAMA Facility website. Select the link called ‘monitoring and evaluation framework (PDF)’ and go to page 59 to access the template.

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Step 9: Apply causal links

Looking at how the inputs, activities, and outputs connect to each other and lead to the outcomes you want to achieve is a helpful part of developing a TOC. These connections are known as causal links. They can help you show which activities lead to particular outcomes, and which outcomes lead to each impact. This process also helps to:

  • show how the activities will have an effect
  • justify spending
  • identify important steps to monitor

The TOC diagram demonstrates causal links from inputs to impacts.

Causal links show how one thing causes another thing to happen.

There are multiple approaches to applying causal links. One way is to identify and apply causal links once you have mapped out your impact, outcomes, outputs, activities and inputs. Another way is to apply causal links as you go along.

You can show causal links as arrows on your TOC document. You should go through your TOC and link:

  • inputs to activities
  • activities to outputs
  • outputs to outcomes
  • outcomes to effects

You should include dependencies and external factors that can support the programme, or create challenges for it.

This allows you to find any gaps in your programme where you can add in necessary items or remove unnecessary items where you cannot identify a purpose.

Assumptions that are based on strong research findings will have a higher chance of producing positive effects.

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Optional step: Include timelines and plan resources

You should include timelines in your TOC to manage the expectations of stakeholders about what can be achieved within a certain timeframe. These timelines can also help you work out when to collect data.

Timelines are visual representations of when things are expected to happen as part of your intervention. They are sometimes displayed as horizontal or vertical lines that cover the whole of a TOC diagram.

We recommend the following resources to help guide your thinking:

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Step 10: Produce your diagram and narrative

Following the previous nine steps will give you the opportunity to reflect on your objectives and plans, discuss them with your stakeholders, and make them explicit. The next step is to identify the most appropriate way to visually present your TOC. This can be done using a combination of diagrams and narratives. TOCs can be visualised in a variety of ways, such as populating planning triangles, simple flow diagrams, or more complex diagrams with many boxes and lots of supporting text. The different approaches all have one common purpose: to map out connections and pathways, and to explain how the intended impacts will be created by the intervention.

A diagram can visually demonstrate causal links and show how inputs are expected to lead to activities, activities to outputs, outputs to outcomes, and outcomes to impact. An accompanying narrative can also help to provide details on the underlying assumptions and potential risks. This visual representation and narrative will help you  

  • communicate your vision and steps to your stakeholders
  • break down silos, point out connections, and attract other people to work with
  • guide decisions on how to allocate resources
  • provide the basis for funding decisions

We recommend any visualisation should be supported with a narrative describing the pathways of change needed to achieve the final intended impacts.  It may also be helpful to have multiple versions of your visualisation with different levels of details for different users.

If your TOC is particularly complex, including causal links in your diagram can make it harder to understand. In these circumstances, it may be better to remove less important causal links and include them as part of your separate narrative to support your diagram instead. For instance, a logic model can also be used to display information about the inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes, and effects of a programme of work, but this type of model does not display the causal links or information about assumptions, risks, and context. You can access a Logic Model template from the Defra website on GOV.UK. Select the ‘3. Defra TOC Tool Annexes’ link in the ‘Project Documents’ section to download the PowerPoint file. Go to slide 14 of the file called ‘Logic Model template’.

TOC should be reviewed and updated when new evidence is available and if the intervention changes.

These templates and examples are useful for introducing you to basic TOC diagrams, but they will not provide enough information to support monitoring and evaluation plans.

Tips on how to create your TOC diagram

You can find step-by-step guidance on creating a TOC diagram on the SpringerLink website.

TOC diagrams

There are several resources we would recommend looking at:

You can also see a variety of TOC diagrams on the Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation website. Select the ‘PDF’ link for more information on the range of potential approaches dependent on the context of your project or programme. Some particularly useful diagrams include:

  • ‘Figure 1. A Basic Generic Theory of Change’ – you can find this on page 122 of the PDF document
  • ‘Figure 3. A Basic Theory of Change for Multifaceted Sufficient Intervention’ – you can find this on page 130 of the PDF document
  • ‘Figure 6. Nested Theories of Change’ – you can find this on page 134 of the PDF document

You can also see an example of a TOC with causal links on the IDinsight website.

Simplified examples

For simplified examples we would recommend looking at:

TOC available templates

You can access TOC available templates on the Defra website. Select the ‘3. Defra TOC Tool Annexes’ link in the ‘Project Documents’ section to download the PowerPoint file. Go to slide 4 of the file called ‘ToC map template – Phase 1’. Also consider looking at slide 8, which is called ‘ToC narrative – summary template (Phase 1 and 2 – Steps 1, 10, 11, 14)’ for a narrative template.

You can also find some simple TOC templates on the Nesta website. Select the ‘Download toolkit’ link to download the PDF and access the Theory of Change template.

Use nested TOCs for complex programmes

If you have a particularly complex programme made up of many parts, it can be helpful to develop multiple smaller TOCs for the main parts of your programme and link these together. This approach is known as a ‘nested TOC’ and can be helpful for thinking about big changes in a more manageable way.

For example, Ipsos UK developed a TOC in 2018 to evaluate and measure the impact of the Non-Domestic Smart Energy Management Innovation Competition programme (NDSEMIC). The programme encouraged project developers to propose ways of helping retail and hospitality businesses and schools manage their energy use. This comprised of a high-level TOC and seven nested TOCs which reflected the diversity of approaches, contexts, and desired impacts of each of the seven projects. This allowed for a ‘case-based’ approach to evaluating the impact of the programme, meaning Ipsos UK was able to explore the role of different contextual factors in changes in more detail. It also meant that the evaluation could investigate distinct causal pathways within more complex programmes aiming to achieve several outcomes. This is an example of a nested TOC from Hayward, Bierman, and Baxendale’s ‘Deriving benefits from Theory of Change for innovation programming in the public and private sector’. This report is due to be published soon and we will provide a link as soon as it is available.

Nested TOCs are ‘sub-theories of change’ that are useful for simplifying complex programmes into more manageable parts.

Case study example TOCs for complex programmes

There are three examples we would recommend looking at:

Example TOCs for ‘whole’ programme-level TOCs

There are two resources we would recommend looking at:

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Step 11: Produce a monitoring and evaluation action plan

Evaluation is an important aspect of monitoring the success of a programme. It allows you to assess whether a programme is providing value for money, and to take action to improve this if necessary. Interventions may sound very compelling and appear worthwhile, but it is difficult to know whether they achieve the intended goals without collecting data and evaluating it. Monitoring and evaluation provide the data needed to understand what happened, the story behind the results, and work on improvements.  

To maximise the impact of your intervention you must:

  • consider evaluation plans as early as possible in the design phase
  • consider the evidence from existing related evaluations to influence design
  • consider how you will iteratively monitor the implementation and success of your intervention during and after implementation

During the design stage, it is important to plan how you will monitor your progress and evaluate success of your initiative. At this stage, you should also consider how you can learn from the evidence gained from previous evaluations.

During implementation, evaluation provides data on progress and gives the opportunity to adjust things to optimise for success.

As the intervention ends, evaluation assesses the extent to which the intended benefits were met, and assesses the circumstances that affected the success of the intervention. Different types of evaluation are conducted during different parts of the intervention life cycle and one approach will not be appropriate for all situations. Evaluation can be scaled down as needed to reflect available resources and time pressures. 

You should produce a plan to show how you will:

  • monitor and evaluate your programme
  • identify Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
  • identify targets
  • identify data sources
  • communicate with stakeholders throughout the programme

Log Frames

A log frame is a planning tool that provides a simple and systematic summary of the approach used to design, execute, and assess the intervention. This makes it very easy for all stakeholders to monitor the progress of the intervention. Log frames are not static. They evolve to reflect learning and changes needed at each stage of the intervention cycle.

You can produce a Log Frame to inform your evaluation plan.

The example Log Frame shows a measurement framework for a programme describing the specific indicators and means of verification. This example Log Frame is adapted from the tools4dev website.

Monitoring and Evaluation Frameworks

A monitoring and evaluation framework sets out the plans for assessing the success of the intervention for each level. It also clarifies how data will be collected, analysed, and reported. This framework provides a way of determining the extent to which the intervention is working and enables interventions to be modified and adapted where necessary.

The table shows an example monitoring and evaluation framework. This example monitoring and evaluation framework is adapted from the tools4dev website.

Baseline data will be needed to assess progress. This includes analysis of the current situation, identifying the starting point for your programme or project. TOC development will also support situations where baseline data is not available.

How to develop a monitoring and evaluation plan

There are several resources we would recommend looking at:

Guidance and practical examples of how to develop good indicators for monitoring and evaluation

There are several resources we would recommend looking at:

You can see some example impact indicators on the Itad website. Follow the ‘Download’ link to download the report and go to page 8 to read the section called ‘2.2.2 Impact, outcomes and outputs’.

Common monitoring and evaluation mistakes

You can access a checklist of common monitoring and evaluation mistakes on the tools4dev website. Select the ‘Download checklist’ link to access the checklist.

Case study examples of how to embed monitoring and evaluation into your strategy and project cycle

There are several resources we would recommend looking at:

Templates for planning monitoring and evaluation

You can access evaluation planning templates from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention website. Go to pages 88 to 97 to look at the templates.


You can find guidance on how to write accessible publications on the Analysis Function Policy and Guidance Hub.

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How to plan and facilitate a Theory of Change workshop

One useful way of guiding the development of TOC is through workshops. Co-creating TOC with stakeholders ensures agreement on what the intervention is trying to achieve and how it will achieve intended outcomes. By working closely with stakeholders, you can:

  • engage relevant stakeholders in programme development
  • contextualise the plans
  • ensure stakeholders are invested in the intervention

Workshop sessions

Workshops are practical exercises that are useful for ensuring stakeholders are in agreement throughout TOC development. You can run workshops online, or face to face. You may also need to run a hybrid workshop, which is a mixture of online and face to face.

There are different approaches to running a TOC workshop, depending on the time available.

Make sure everyone that has been invited understands how they will be expected to contribute. They should be aware of any information they may need to bring with them, such as information on funding, evidence, or ministerial commitments they are addressing. When running your workshops, you should ensure everyone can add to the discussion and has a chance to speak and be heard.

It is important to have at least two facilitators for your workshop. This should include one experienced co-facilitator, who also ideally has some experience in TOC development. Contact your analysis department as early as possible for support. The facilitators will be able to share roles of conversation facilitation and discussion, note taking, and time keeping. It is also helpful to include a social researcher to support and quality assure the workshop sessions.

Where possible, a TOC process is not just one workshop. It should take place over several sessions. These sessions could be held very close together, over several days, or spaced more widely. You could organise your sessions as follows:

  • Session 1: Define impacts and outcomes
  • Session 2: Clarify outputs, list activities, and inputs
  • Session 3: Make causal linkages
  • Session 4: Assumptions and risks
  • Session 5: Metrics and evaluation that will feed from the Theory of Change

Practical tips on facilitating a TOC Workshop

There are several resources we would recommend looking at:

Stakeholder engagement

There are several resources we would recommend looking at:

Planning TOC workshops for complex programmes at multiple levels

There are two resources we would recommend looking at:

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Other factors to consider to help you develop a high-quality Theory of Change

Where possible it is helpful to seek the assistance of analysts with expertise in running TOC workshops in your department to support and quality assure the TOC development process. You can also contact the Evaluation Task Force at  and the Analysis Function evaluation support team at 

When you quality assure your TOC, you should consider the following factors:

  • consistent definitions and terminology are used throughout the process
  • relevant stakeholders participate meaningfully throughout
  • stakeholders have the chance to consider all aspects of the programme
  • the context of the programme and existing evidence is clear

A good TOC is an iterative process that develops alongside changes in context.

There are several resources to help you assess the quality of your TOC:

Checklist for reporting TOC

You can access a useful checklist on the Implementation Science website.

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The Analysis Function Evaluation Support Team run workshops to support departments to develop a TOC for programmes, projects, and strategy. You can find out more about our TOC workshops on our training page.

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Thank you for using the Analysis Function TOC toolkit. We would be grateful if you can provide feedback on your experience of the toolkit by completing our online survey. It should take around 10 minutes to complete the survey and your responses will be used to inform further development of the tool. All feedback you provide is anonymous.

If you have any further questions about the survey or the use of the responses please contact the team at

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