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Special on Theory of Change with Dr. Helene Clark

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


Image: Center of Theory of Change


Dr. Helene Clark is the Founder and Director of ActKnowledge, and 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 is a social enterprise that connects social change practice with rigorous study of how and why initiatives work. ActKnowledge is the founder of Center of Theory of Change, a nonprofit focusing on outcome-driven intervention based strategic framework tool called Theory of Change (ToC). Theory of Change is a valuable tool to understand the impact of policies/interventions/programs (measures) connected to understand the outcomes linked to 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

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# Theory of Change 

Theory of Change (ToC) forms the bedrock of impact evaluation design. The impetus to the change framework came through the ground-breaking work by the Aspen Institute Round table on Community Change (Round table) titled The Community Builder’s Approach to Theory of Change: A Practical Guide to Theory Development for measuring and evaluating social interventions. Initially designed to facilitate a refresher course for building a theory of change model for community-based programs and initiatives, ToC philosophy permeates wide-ranging and long-lasting social change and impact within the social and development sector. Its footprints encompass impact-based giving to evidence-based analysis of policies and social interventions for a long-term wholesome change within our society. Theory of Change wears multiple hats; consider a deep-rooted philosophy, a strategic foundation to a change tool, its presence is paramount in today’s global ecosystem. Over the years, the international development center went through a transformational change. Lack of transparency and accountability drove many actors away from the social sector.

Image: Center for Theory of Change | actknowledge


However, a rise in shareholder activism, backed by a collaborative model among various actors within the social and development ecosystem significantly the private sector and foundations kick-started strategic thinking for a sustained social impact. To enable a fundamental social change and impact into troubling and deep-rooted problems within the society, a scientific methodology and behavioural mindset change are essential for a prolonged social innovation. Impact Evaluation along with Theory of Change lays down a strategic shift in the philosophy among all actors w

Helene chats about the flagship course – the certification course in Theory of Change, its pedagogical structure and how it educates and fosters career growth and transition. 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 : University of Arizona Theory of Change – Chosen by ActKnowledge to Showcase Great Formats


Theory of Change is today ubiquitous within the international development sector to understand, analyse, plan and implement long term change through back wards mapping of interventions. Theory of Change technique/program logic can be implemented in any organization or within our lives to bring about a more holistic for the better.

Nishant Malhotra thanks Dr Helene Clark for sharing her valuable time to chat on the Theory of Change program logic. A brief snapshot of the conversation.

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

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.

Helene, as the Founder and Director of ActKnowledgeand 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

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 | TuneIn |  Cast Box 


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. 2

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 chats about your flagship course, the story behind the framework, the certification course in Theory of Change and how the course is a value add for people pursuing a career especially in the development sector.

The European Union requires that all projects include a Theory of Change. Many actors within the development sector example nonprofits, development agencies lack an understanding of the theory of change logic, they are behind the curve and, there is room to grow. However, the theory of change is becoming hackneyed without entities understanding the essence of this valuable social evaluation tool. “Helene Clark” 

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


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