Using Theory of Change to design your Nutrition Evaluation
Theory of Change (ToC)
Before continuing, see the section on ‘Basics of MEL’ first.
Also see the section on ‘Basics of Nutrition’ , earlier in this course where Nutrition problem and solution trees are described.
In the ‘Basics of MEL’ course Basics of Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) you will have learnt how to build a simple ToC following the beekeeping example. We Now work out how to put together a more complex ToC using information from problem and solution trees and from an understanding of your own project.
The ToC links the inputs and activities of your project to the outcomes and impacts of your project through causal pathways. Assumptions are also noted in the ToC; these are usually outside the control of the project, such as the weather or policy shifts. It will also be useful to add activities that other initiatives are doing if they are critical to addressing the causes of malnutrition. For example, in our beekeeping example, some inputs might be provided from outside, such as training or materials. The ToC will help you to understand through logical steps how the activities you are doing link to your project objectives and the related outcomes and impacts. The ToC is different from the Nutrition Solution Tree in that it is a real plan for action and reflects the reality of the activities you are carrying out or plan to introduce in your project.
The UNICEF Conceptual model of causes of malnutrition that was described in ‘The Basics of Nutrition’ and pathways between agriculture and nutrition (SPRING 2014) can be helpful to assess the potential for agriculture and food systems to benefit nutrition and can assist in building a ToC for the project.
Pathways between Agriculture and Nutrition (Spring 2014)
SPRING (2014). “Understanding and Applying Primary Pathways and Principles ” Improving Nutrition through Agriculture Technical Brief Series. Arlington, VA: USAID/Strengthening Partnerships, Results, and Innovations in Nutrition Globally (SPRING) Project.
The ToC shows diagrammatically how the activities carried out by the project are planned to improve nutrition through a series of steps. Some outcomes need 2 or more activities to effect a change. For example, an adequate diet needs both nutritional knowledge and access to quality food.
Below are 2 sample Theories of Change – the first is the pathways from Agriculture to Nutrition showing different ways in which Agriculture projects can improve nutrition. This was used for the case study with the Himalayan Permaculture Centre (HPC) shown below. The HPC ToC was drawn up through research with communities and by working with the project team to draw out the links between activities and the expected outcomes of the project. The following exercise on ‘Theory of Change for Nutrition Exercise‘ will walk you through developing your own ToC
Nutrition Theory of Change for the Himalayan Permaculture Centre
The ToC drawn up for the Himalayan Permaculture Centre is a practical example of a ToC drawn up specifically for Nutrition in Nepal.
Detail of the ToC for Himalayan Permaculture for Nutrition showing links to the Underlying Causes of Malnutrition
Mayer, A. B. (2019). “Nutrition-sensitive outcomes of a permaculture project in Nepal ” Field Exchange 59.
Practical Guidance on Developing a Projects Theory of Change https://www.crs.org/sites/default/files/tools-research/practical_guidance_on_developing_a_projets_theory_of_change.pdf