The technical knowledge of the elements needed to provide equitable basic education is well established: well-crafted curricula, qualified teachers supported by professional development, adequate infrastructure, appropriate texts and instructional materials, and a regular process for assessing learning achievement. However, in conflict/crisis-affected environments, there are a host of barriers and challenges to providing these elements, including insecurity, weak institutions, inequalities, historical traumas, and fault lines. These contexts are deeply complex, dynamic, often times unpredictable, and difficult to manage.
USAID’s programs, while they often provide pilot and demonstration projects that point the way to system change, cannot sustain the delivery of education services and reform – this must ultimately be accomplished by host-country institutions. However, it is precisely in countries affected by conflict that institutions have the weakest capacity to deliver and support basic education.
The recent increase in the use of the term theory of change by development agencies and organizations arises from the need for more well-grounded and creative strategies to achieve progress in challenging and complex environments. A theory of change approach calls for greater rigor in examining contexts, systems, organizations, strategies, and project designs in crisis and conflicted environments, seeking to understand both the drivers of conflict and ways that improved access to education can mitigate the effects of conflict on children and youth.
The USAID-ECCN Annotated Bibliography on Theories of Change in Development as of 2016 has reviewed more than 150 studies in the form of existing reviews, concept papers, research, cases, and guidance. Documents have been drawn from published sources, institutional and private think tanks, donor agencies, development organizations, and non-governmental organizations.
This document contains a selection 36 studies that highlight the major findings and good practices that apply the concept and practice of theory of change in development assistance, with a focus on contexts affected by crisis and conflict. The documents selected for the first phase of the Annotated Bibliography were chosen based on: (i) our judgment on the quality of theory and evidence, (ii) degree to which they are cited in the literature, and (iii) their specific contribution to the concepts and application of theory of change relevant to education in crisis- and conflict-affected settings.
The annotated bibliography is an ongoing process that is now available online in the form of evidence gap maps that provide systematic access to research findings.