This working paper is one of the contributions to the EBA anthology on theories of change (ToC) in development cooperation. The author, Adam Pain, discusses ToCs for a common type of intervention in Swedish development cooperation: support to institutions and institutional change. The text is built on two recent evaluations of Swedish and international aid to Afghanistan and Swedish bilateral research cooperation. While very different in scope, size and context, both cases illustrate how donors engage with different types of institutions. Through them, we are provided with ample lessons learned, with the author breaking down the explicit ToCs that guided both cases. The analysis focuses on the importance of understanding context, leadership and social agency when engaging with institutions.
EBA hopes that this text will contribute to the overall conversation on the theory and practice of ToCs in general, as well as the hands-on development of ToCs for institutional change. With that said, the text also raises several questions for development practitioners on the importance of deep local and contextual understanding that might challenge current organisational setups within Sida and other donors.