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Software for Developing Theories of Change

“Just wondering what software is out there/you are using to type up theories of change you develop during workshops etc.? I'm generally using flowcharts in PowerPoint (but also have previously used Visio - no longer have access though) but I'm wondering if there are other, better options out there? Ideally ones that are free to use. Thank you in advance for your help!”This question was recently posted on an online platform for development practitioners.The discussion that ensured resulted in a list of software for visualising Theories of Change (TOC). I felt that this list was of too much value not to share with a wider audience.

So in no particular order we have:

1. VUE (Visual Understanding Environment), open source ‘mind mapping' freeware from Tufts University

Remark: Requires signing up to an account to be able to download.

Remark: For Macs only. Paid, not free.


Remark: Successor to Visio. It is online, so internet quality is important.

Remark: Flowchart maker, requires account and signing up is free

Remark: Register for free, premium version available. Online only;

Remark: Free version but your diagrams are public (three can be private). Better security / features for $5/month – i.e. all diagrams are private. Online; internet quality is important.

Remark: Free trial for 60 days. $30 for a self-declared low-income individual. $285 to $300 for standard subscriptions.

Remark:they offer special conditions for CSOs namely: Free licenses for international development projects that cannot afford DoView.


Remark: an online system mapping tool

Remark: is the stand-out tool for me for drawing interconnected “items” and what I use for results-chain diagrams.

Remark: It is a potentially useful tool for drawing complex systems and relationships.

13. Decision Explorer

Remark: Very flexible and allows complexity of arguments about change to be represented. This means the analyst/evaluator has to work on the ordering of the components of the theory. But there is a set of tools designed to help. Decision Explorer can help to get at underlying complexity and the interdependencies within projects and to help explain them to third parties. It could do with an update though, especially in terms of the output options.

Remark: The free and standalone package is adequate for most organisations. There is a 90 sec intro video on the same page.

Remark: Changeroo supports the development of a learning culture and helps to turn a ToC into a living document of critical reflection and co-creation. Website has a whole section, dubbed the ToC Academy, with all kinds of ToC related resources.

And lastly...

16. Standard charting and graphic tools in Word, Powerpoint, Google Docs, OpenOffice etc.

I hope you found this blog post helpful. Please feel free to tell us of any software for developing Theories of Change that were not included on this list (or how your experience has been using a software that is already on the list) lines in the Comments section below.

If you liked what you read, remember sharing is caring, so hit the “Like”, Button and spread the word on social media so others may benefit from the information.


Many thanks to the persons who shared their knowledge and experiences and to Matthew Pritchard for compiling the list.

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​​​Ann-Murray Brown

Monitoring, Evaluation and
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