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Special on Theory of Change with Dr. Helene Clark

This is a promotional message accompanying Dr. Helene Clark’s conversation with Nishant Malhotra, Solo Founder of The middle Road, video on The middle Road YouTube channel.  The middle Road extends an invitation to prominent social changemakers and key players within the global development and business ecosystem to advertise on The middle Road platform. Please be informed that this is a paid promotion opportunity provided by The middle Road.

Theory of change is a dynamic, critical thinking process, it makes the initiative clear and transparent – it underpins strategic planning. It is developed in a participatory way over time, following a logical structure that is rigorous and specific, and that can meet a quality test by the stakeholder. The terminology is not important, it is about buying into the critical thinking.’ Helene Clark, ActKnowledge1

Dr. Helene Clark is the Founder and Director of ActKnowledge, as well as the Board Chair of The Center for Theory of Change, a global thought leader in enabling social change and impact within the social impact sector. ActKnowledge, a social enterprise, bridges social change practice with rigorous study to understand how and why initiatives work. ActKnowledge is also the founder of the Center of Theory of Change, a nonprofit that focuses on an outcome-driven intervention-based strategic framework tool known as Theory of Change (ToC). Theory of Change is a valuable tool for comprehending the impact of policies, interventions, and programs (measures) by establishing connections to understand the outcomes associated with these measures.

Suggested read on Theory of Change on The middle Road

Video: Sample Podcast with Dr Helene Clark | The middle Road

Listen the podcast on Global Directories below

Apple | Spotify | Listen Notes | TuneIn 

# Theory of Change 

Theory of Change (ToC) serves as the foundational pillar in designing impact evaluation strategies. This influential framework was first pioneered by the Aspen Institute Roundtable on Community Change, under the title “The Community Builder’s Approach to Theory of Change: A Practical Guide to Theory Development for Measuring and Evaluating Social Interventions.” Originally conceived to facilitate the creation of a theory of change model for community-based programs, ToC’s significance now extends across a diverse spectrum of social and development initiatives, fostering long-lasting and wide-ranging impacts within our society. Embracing a multifaceted role, Theory of Change embodies not only a deep-rooted philosophy but also a strategic cornerstone and an indispensable tool in today’s global ecosystem. From impact-driven philanthropy to evidence-based analysis of policies and social interventions, it plays a pivotal role in effecting wholesome, sustainable change. Over the years, the international development landscape has undergone transformative shifts. Previously, a lack of transparency and accountability deterred many stakeholders from engaging in the social sector. However, a surge in shareholder activism, coupled with collaborative efforts between various actors, notably the private sector and foundations, has sparked strategic thinking to foster sustained social impact. To bring about profound societal changes and tackle entrenched challenges, a scientific methodology and a shift in behavioral mindset are essential for fostering enduring social innovation. In this context, Impact Evaluation, alongside Theory of Change, catalyzes a strategic paradigm shift among all stakeholders. In a conversation with Dr. Helene Clark, Nishant delves into the flagship certification course on Theory of Change—a program that not only imparts valuable pedagogical insights but also empowers career growth and transitions within the social impact sector. The comprehensive course comprises four core modules and elective components, allowing participants to progress at their own pace. As a critical enabler, the course nurtures careers and facilitates knowledge management, addressing the needs of a dynamic and evolving sector.

The far-reaching influence of Theory of Change is exemplified in certain countries, such as the Netherlands, where government organizations now mandate its incorporation in projects. Moreover, Japan’s recent collaboration with Acknowledge for Theory of Change underscores its global appeal and applicability.

Listen to Dr. Helene Clark in a follow-up conversation with Nishant Malhotra (me) on the Theory of Change Certification Course, its pedagogical structure, and its potential to drive positive change in the realm of social impact. The certification course is extensive with four core courses and electives. The course is self-paced and a critical enabler in promoting careers and knowledge management within the social impact sector. Some countries like the Netherlands have made it mandatory for government organizations to have the ToC incorporated in projects. Recently, Japan partnered with Acknowledge for Theory of Change.

Learn more about the course here. | Image: Center of Theory of Change 


 Video : Above Dr Helene Clark talking about the Theory of Change certification course offered by her non profit | The middle Road

Theory of Change has become ubiquitous within the international development sector, serving as a vital tool to comprehend, analyze, plan, and implement long-term change through backward mapping of interventions. The Theory of Change technique/program logic can be effectively applied in any organization or even in our personal lives to foster holistic improvement for the better. Nishant Malhotra expresses gratitude to Dr. Helene Clark for generously sharing her valuable insights during their discussion on the Theory of Change program logic. Here’s a brief snapshot of their conversation.

Theory of Change is not a rocket science — Dr. Helene Clark 

Introduction: Dr Helene, you are a leading authority on the Theory of Change (ToC) framework. Theory of Change is one of the most critical program logic for evaluating Impact Evaluation, made famous by the Aspen Roundtable for Community Change, ActKnowledge initiatives, publications and outreach on this topic.


Podcast – Dr Helene Clark on the Theory of Change Certification Course 

Helene, as the Founder and Director of ActKnowledge, and Board Chair of The Center for Theory of Change, do share the evolution of this multi-stakeholder community-driven outcome focused framework for measuring the impact of projects/ interventions especially from the early 90s.

Question: But first, for the benefit of the audience, since we would be speaking about interventions repeatedly, please explain in your parlance, how would you define interventions. Do elaborate on your definition of strategy. Theory of Change concept came through a collaborative movement among multiple actors/entities. ASPEN, ActKnowledge, and other global actors/entities played a monumental role in designing the Theory of Change framework. How did these partnerships evolve over time?

Question: In your paper Theory of Change Technical Papers (Dr. Dana H. Taplin, Dr. Heléne Clark, Eoin Collins, and David C. Colby) and Basics, A Primer on Theory of Change, (Dr. Dana H. Taplin, Dr. Heléne Clark), you mention the importance of long-term goals and back mapping a series of interconnected interventions in the short, medium, and long term to achieve outcomes. This concept was revolutionary and counterintuitive to the prevailing thought of following forward-looking indicators to make a long-term change. Please, explain the process of enunciating a simple example to understand the idea better? *

Learn more about Theory of Change – Register for the Course

How does the qualitative framework of the Theory of Change facilitate a change in the outcome through casually linked interventions? Can you explain through a simple example?

Listen the podcast on Global Directories below

Apple | Spotify | Listen Notes 
Image: Center for Theory of Change

In the PACE Theory of Change: Discussion Paper Prepared by Zabi Rahat and Eoin Collins, highlights the importance of driving long-term outcome-driven change within the civic societies significantly through universities. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has identified ways in which universities can engage in sustainable development goals.

Question: How and in what ways should universities use Theory of Change as a tool to implement a holistic mindset change among students. How can ToC engage sustainable development goals as part of the curriculum in educational institutes? Helene discusses the flagship Theory of Change Certification Course, its origins, and its value for individuals seeking careers in the development sector. The European Union mandates Theory of Change in all projects. However, the theory of change is becoming hackneyed without entities understanding the essence of this valuable social evaluation tool.

For more on the podcast refer to the brief The middle Road interviews Dr. Helene Clark Founder and Director of ActKnowledge, and Board Chair of The Center for Theory of Change.


  • Theory of Change Technical Papers
  • Theory of Change Basics, A Primer on Theory of Change: Helene Clark and Dana Taplin
  • ActKnowledge Presents Theory of Change Online – YouTube video
  • The Community Builder’s Approach to a practical guide to theory development Andrea A. Anderson, Ph.D
  1. Review of the use of ‘Theory of Change’ in international development Isabel Vogel for the UK Department of International Development
  2. PACE Theory of Change: Discussion Paper Prepared by Zabi Rahat and Eoin Collin
Note: The read has been updated and revised since its original publication. 
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