Development practitioners are ideologues, everyday with we go on faith and prayers that a miracle will occur. We assume that our investments and activities will produce outcomes. And yet outcomes aren’t like filling a glass with water. Outcomes involve people and highly dependent things like growth, behavior change and new ways of relating to each other.
On the site: Theory of Change they lay out quite succinctly that a theory of change explains why we think our activities and interventions would have any affect on desired outcomes. Within each theory of change is often hidden a miracle, that intervention a) breastfeeding classes will result in outcome b) healthy babies. Or the well crafted results of an organizational assessment will lead to an ability to manage a complex reform.
With all the money spent on RCTs, rigorous project vetting and humiliating supervision missions where every activity is reviewed, how come we never investigate our grand assumption? Why are water projects in Africa on their nth iteration without adapting the project design? Why are programs seeking additional financing without really figuring out why a worked and b didn’t. We just scale up a. In the age of politics in development, governance, adaptive leadership and behavioral insights aren’t we better equipped to at least try and find out? Faith has it’s place in my life, I just keep some room for science, even if it’s the soft ‘social’ kind.