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Currently, the international development community (practitioners and donors alike) shows great interest in using a theory of change (TOC) as the development hypothesis for programs and activities. The reasons for this shift are many. Compared to other processes, developing a TOC requires a more in-depth causal analysis of issues—an analysis that is rooted in a rigorous and evolving evidence base. Developing and using a TOC builds a common understanding among stakeholders around the actions needed to achieve desired changes. Additionally, a TOC allows for efficient monitoring, learning, and evaluation based on a clear and testable set of hypotheses.
Diverse guidance exists on how to best design and use a TOC. In this curriculum, we present one method that does its best to align to the requirements of creating a development hypothesis for a Development Food Security Activity (DFSA) funded by USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (FFP). Previous experience in program and TOC development, participant feedback from six years of TOPS workshops, and input from the FFP Monitoring and Evaluation Team all help to craft this curriculum. We update it each year to align with the most current FFP guidance for DFSA implementers and to share new methods for strengthening staff capacity in TOC development and use.