Using theory of change for outcome-oriented research

Research plays a key role in identifying challenges and opportunities that can be used to spur development in the livestock sector. Therefore, in conducting research one of the core objectives is to ensure it makes significant contribution towards improving livelihoods.

Summary of Maziwa Zaidi change pathway.

Given that there are many priorities competing for stakeholder attention and scarce resources, research should not only help generate and promote new strategies, but also demonstrate how they contribute to sustainable livestock development.

Demonstrating how research contributes to development can, however, be difficult and complex. As such, efforts to make agricultural research-for-development more outcome-based in demonstrable ways has influenced experimentation with various approaches.

One such case was reflected by scientists implementing the Maziwa Zaidi Program in Tanzania. They adopted the ‘theory of change’ approach, which they say has proven more satisfactory in showcasing outcomes from research. Amos Omore, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) country representative in Tanzania, notes that ‘despite challenges, the approach was found useful for planning, communication, managing complexity, monitoring behavioural changes and deriving lessons to adapt in future program activities.’

He further notes that the approach was also used to showcase how the theory of change approach can be adapted and applied in broader research-for-development contexts. Practical application to contextualize it in smallholder dairy value chains was tested with a view to generating appropriate evidence and evaluating progress from research towards development outcomes.

Results showed that the appropriate use of the theory of change helps scientists to better understand how research can more effectively contribute to alleviating persistent constraints in value chains. Its application permitted a clearer definition and agreement on key changes, their linkages and assumptions along the impact pathway.

Read the full study on ‘Using “theory of change” to improve agricultural research: Recent experience from Tanzania’.

Read more about the Maziwa Zaidi program here.

See other output from the Maziwa Zaidi Program here.