22 November 2012 zichtbaarzijn

By Ben Haagsma

Fair & Sustainable Advisory Services was asked to facilitate a Theory of Change workshop in Bangladesh for the WASH Alliance partners; WASH means Water, Sanitation and Health. This event took place from 3 – 6 November in Dhaka. Twelve alliance partners attended this workshop and shared their ideas, gave specific examples and shared experiences in a very energetical and intensive way. It was a very lively workshop. In that respect the Theory of Change proved to be a perfect tool and approach to stimulate the debate among participants and to make experiences and ideas more explicit and visible. The participants had never before discussed their programmes so much in–depth and which led to a number of new discoveries with regard to the WASH programme.

A Theory of Change visualizes the logical sequence from inputs and activities through intermediate changes (or outcomes) to the final change. The Theory of Change makes these changes more explicit, including the underlying assumptions about how these changes will happen.

The workshop dealt with all key steps of the Theory of Change: 

  1. describing the final DREAM that the WASH alliance wants to achieve; 
  2. the identification of all intermediate changes needed to get at that final situation, the so-called ‘pathway of changes’; 
  3. the underlying assumptions for these changes; 
  4. the necessary activities to be implemented. 

Discussing all these steps took more time than anticipated, but we were able to manage the workshop programme flexibly. 

The main objective of the workshop was the systematic reflection on the existing Theory of Change. This objective shows that there is no programme without a Theory of Change, but it may rather be implicit instead of explicit. Helping the organisations to make their Theory of Change more explicit is an important condition for better planning and evaluation. Therefore the workshop had a dual focus: backward looking on results and successes achieved, and learning how that had happened: making the Theory of Change more explicit; forward looking by using these new insights for planning 2013. An extra objective was piloting the Theory of Change in this workshop setting and learning about the best and most effective programme and facilitation in order to achieve its acceptance by WASH partners in all countries where it operates. That objective has been accomplished.

Introducing a new tool such as the Theory of Change requires a careful approach. How does it fit within the current tools used? Is it going to replace something they got used to? Is it an extra burden on top of what they do already? In this case, all participants wanted to see a clear link with the existing tool they were used to: the logframe. Persons must firstly, acknowledge that linkage and secondly, realize how the Theory of Change helps them to improve their own performance. In both dimensions we were successful in responding to these questions.

This facilitation was successful as it provided an excellent and much needed platform for discussion and experience sharing among participants. It highlighted the strong and weak points of the current WASH programme, the different opinions and views among partners with regard to implementation and the expected changes. In particular, the assumptions were critically reviewed and in a number of cases the reformulated assumptions led to extra activities in the WASH programme. 

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