In their document Research Programme Consortia: Managing the Inception Phase DFID defines Theory of Change as a useful framework to make explicit what kind of change a research programme is designed to achieve, how it will achieve that change, and how it will measure the degree of change. DFID requires RPCs to produce a Theory of Change (or an equivalent alternative such as logic model thinking or outcome mapping) as one of the four key objectives of their Inception Phase. The Inception Report needs to show an integrated approach to research uptake, with the primary elements of the team’s approach to research uptake in the main body of the report. When done well, using the theory of change approach can help to integrate research uptake into research design.
DFID would anticipate that Inception Reports adopt an integrated approach to monitoring and evaluation. That is, they should use the theory of change to establish an overall framework for monitoring and evaluation, and then set indicators of progress for each component of the research programme. This will then be used to develop a full logframe for the remainder of the programme.
Managing the Inception Phase notes that guidance is currently under development across all UK government departments to explain the types of activities that DFID and other departments would wish to strongly encourage as part of your research uptake strategy and those which are not deemed an appropriate spend of taxpayer’s money. This is expected to be finalised shortly. In the meantime, DFID advises that researchers are strongly advised to commence strategic thinking and planning of an outline research uptake strategy as indicated in original proposals, but to maintain close contact with relevant DFID staff in order to seek guidance regarding delivery of potential activities during the inception phase. Value for money considerations and efficiency savings should be explicitly indicated as part of your strategy wherever possible.