2022 Organisation and Management of Aid Description of method, Review

How to change the world? An anthology of theories of change

Kim Forss, Númi Östlund

Aid must achieve results; it must contribute to positive change for people living in poverty and oppression. The question of how to achieve such change has followed Swedish aid since its inception in the 1960s. The answers have been many, just like the different methods or models used to manage and plan the activities.

For a number of years, “theory of change” has been the most common model for Sida and other agencies to describe in general terms how they will achieve the goals formulated by the government. Normally, individual theories of change are also developed for all the projects and initiatives that will contribute to a government strategy.

The importance of understanding theories of change, as a central part of aid, is the starting point for this anthology. With its different perspectives, we hope that there is something of interest to many readers, at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Sida, in partner organisations and in academia. Overall, the anthology provides a picture of theory of change as a potentially valuable tool for planning, learning and evaluation. At the same time, several texts show that it is important to approach the method with a clear understanding of what you want to achieve and how you contribute to constructive learning about results and change. Otherwise, there is risk that the method leads to burdensome administrative tasks that do not contribute to the organisation.

The anthology contains the following chapters:

  • Introduction (Númi Östlund & Kim Forss)


  • Theory of Change at Sida: A Point of Departure for Planning, Following Up and Reporting (Henrik Nordström and Rebecca Heine)
  • Is It That Time Again? Lessons from Previous Attempts to Measure the Results of Development Cooperation (Janet Vähämäki and Númi Östlund)
  • Views on Development, Change and Ownership in Swedish Aid Policy: A Retrospective (Jonas Ewald and Lennart Wohlgemuth)
  • Is a Semantic Magnet a Good Governance Tool? A Historical Exploration of the Tensions Inherent in Theory of Change (Hilde Reinertsen)


  • Thematic Theories of Change Contributing to the Agenda 2030 (Suvi Virkkunen and Alva Bruun)
  • An Approach to Theory of Change for Swedish Development Cooperation? (Joakim Molander and Wolfgang Biersack)
  • Theory of Change as a Strategic Tool for Sustainability Within IKEA (Jens Andersson)
  • A Note on EBA’s Theory of Change (Jan Pettersson)
  • Between Radical and Realistic: Biodiversity, Transformation and Development Cooperation (Tilman Hertz)
  • Engaging with Institutions: Clarifying Goals and Developing Theories of Change (Adam Pain)


  • Applying Adaptive Theory of Change in Fragile and Conflict Affected Settings (Léonie Borel, Julian Brett and Erik Bryld)
  • Evaluating Impact With Theories of Change: A Four-Step Guide (Markus Burman)
  • Sida’s Internal Change Management: Three Perspectives from Organisation Pedagogics (Aron Schoug, Viktoria Rubin and Jon Ohlsson)