Summary of "Evolution of the Theory of Change" Webinary

Part of the Graduating to Resilience Webinar Series

On May 29, AVSI hosted a successful webinar titled "The Evolution of the Theory of Change," which is part of our learning webinar series in collaboration with USAID, Trickle Up, and AIR.

Glynnis Melnicove of the American Institutes for Research and Senior Strategic Learning Advisor for USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Affairs, served as the webinar’s moderator and began by highlighting the significance of the graduation approach, originally developed by BRAC in Bangladesh in 2002, which aims to nurture self-reliance and resilience through a comprehensive intervention package. She gave context about the USAID-funded “Graduating to Resilience” activity and how it supports refugees and Ugandan local Ugandan households in Kamwenge District as they transition from food insecurity to self-sufficiency, incorporating a randomized control trial to explore various implementation models.


Jenny Haddle, Senior Advisor at Save the Children, elaborated on the pivotal role of the Theory of Change (ToC) in program design, communication, and adaptive management. Emphasizing its dynamic nature, Haddle stressed its utility in delineating problems, analyzing causes, and articulating long-term changes and critical assumptions. The ToC, she noted, serves as a vital tool for conveying the program’s vision to stakeholders.

Developing a Theory of Change ensures that the project is providing the best set of interventions based on current evidence and the context in which they will be implemented.

John Paul Nyeko, Senior M&E Advisor at AVSI Uganda, detailed the application of ToC in the Graduating to Resilience Activity, highlighting its role in fostering a common understanding of incremental changes needed to achieve program goals. Nyeko emphasized the importance of flexibility, evidence-based decision-making, and robust monitoring and evaluation systems.

The Theory of Change is a comprehensive framework that guides implementation to address complex development challenges such as improving food security and promoting resilience in the face of shocks.

Rita Larok, Chief of Party at AVSI Uganda, provided insights into lessons learned from employing the Theory of Constraints (TOC) approach, underlining the value of supportive donors, real-time database systems, and context monitoring for adaptive management.

Success factors of a solid ToC include a supportive and flexible donor, real-time database systems, and continuous monitoring and evaluation.

Interactive Discussion and Closing Remarks

During the interactive Q&A session, participants inquired about participant selection for ToC reviews, methods to enhance interactivity in the ToC process, and the integration of internal and external data for evidence-based decision-making.
Glynnis Melnicove concluded the session with three key takeaways: advocating for a dynamic and continually refined ToC process, allocating dedicated resources for informed programming, and securing buy-in from staff, activity leadership, and donors for effective ToC implementation.
The webinar provided a valuable platform for knowledge exchange and collaborative learning, emphasizing the importance of adaptive strategies in resilience-building efforts in Uganda, highlighting once-again the importance of models like the Graduation Approach.

About Graduating to Resilience

Graduating to Resilience is a 7-year USAID- Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance- funded Activity, led by AVSI Foundation in partnership with Trickle Up and American Institutes for Research (AIR). The Activity seeks to test the ability of the Graduation Approach to graduate 13,200 extremely poor refugee and host community households (across two cohorts) from food insecurity and fragile livelihoods to self-reliance and resilience. 

Graduating to Resilience articles