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Spheres on Theories of Change

Some theories of Change specify 'spheres'.

These spheres represent the parts of the pathway of change (or results chain) that the intervention or programme will be directly in control of, versus parts that the intervention or programme can only influence.

For example, a lobby and advocacy programme can only control the activities they implement, with the hope that these actions will influence policies. That is, all the public sensitisation campaigns (activities) will increase awareness on an issue that leads to new or revised legislation (influencing an outcome). See the diagram below.

Conversely, some organisations, instead of highlighting the different spheres, just includes an 'accountability ceiling' on the visualisation of the Theory of Change. This accountability ceiling is often represented by a dashed line drawn across the pathway that separates outcomes the organisation will monitor and claim credit for attaining, from the higher-order outcomes that are beyond its power to directly control.

For example, 'a world where all children are safe and protected' is outside the direct control of a programme. This higher order outcome would be placed above the dashed line.

Image reproduced from from Clarke and Anderson, 2004


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​​​Ann-Murray Brown

Monitoring, Evaluation and
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