Theories of Change
2SCALE aims to create partnerships between farmer groups and private firms leading to inclusive development. To make partnership development even more effective, it’s important to identify and monitor the change processes generated by these partnerships and, where needed, modify the terms of inclusion of smallholder farmers, small businesses or low-income consumers.
This is the objective of a new 2SCALE action research program in collaboration with the Partnerships Resource Centre (PrC, a joint project of the Rotterdam School of Management and Wageningen University in the Netherlands). The new program kicked off with workshops, held in Accra and Nairobi in June, where PrC-2SCALE teams began applying the idea of a ‘Theory of Change’ (ToC) to 25 agribusiness partnerships.
Composing a ToC leads to an initial ‘causal framework’ connecting the actions and strategies of a partnership to a sequence of events and intended outcomes. It specifies what changes or actions are necessary for a desired change to occur. This approach is increasingly used by development programs worldwide, for several reasons. Every ToC is based on clearly stated, testable hypotheses about how change will occur. It encourages accountability. It makes results more credible because they were predicted to occur in a certain way. The key is to begin at the end – identify what outcomes you want, and work backwards – what interventions are needed to achieve these outcomes? What are the risks? What are the underlying assumptions?
The workshops also encouraged 2SCALE partnership facilitators to start thinking about exit strategies and scaling pathways. The discussion was based on a practical example: experiences with phasing out a partnership in Togo. The partnership connected maize farmers with large-scale poultry producers, expanding markets – almost creating an entirely new value chain for yellow maize. It involved many players, from farmer organizations to banks to research centers. The ToC analysis identified three key factors that made the program successful. Banks were able and willing to introduce credit financing; producers were paid without delay; and a platform (created by 2SCALE) brought maize and poultry producers together to resolve conflicts and tensions.
The action-research program will focus on ‘strategic’ areas: governance arrangements within partnerships, the intervention repertoire for inclusive development, unintended consequences or trade-offs, and identification of leverage points for scaling and upgrading. Application of the ToC concept will help find practice-based answers to questions as: Under what conditions can 2SCALE clusters alter the terms of inclusion and reach financial sustainability? What type of upgrading is necessary for clusters to become inclusive and sustainable?