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Using social science theories to design and evaluate development programs

Too often those who design programs or evaluations use logic models or results frameworks that rely on causal relationships or mechanisms of change that are assumed. That is, they assume that good activities will lead to good outcomes without considering the social science theories that may (or may not) predict those relationships.

Understanding the relevant social science theories is not just crucial for making the right prediction about how program activities will produce outcomes, it is also necessary for identifying what situational assumptions are needed for the prediction to hold. This lecture will give examples of theories in psychology, economics, and political science used to design interventions and explore how these theories have been tested in the field and what we have learned about whether and how they work. It will also include some recommendations for those who want to use theory in their work. 


About the speaker

As the Principal Economist for FHI 360, Annette Brown leads efforts to build an organizational culture of evidence generation and use across all FHI 360 sectors and regions. She also serves as editor-in-chief for the R&E Search for Evidence blog. Prior to joining FHI 360, Brown headed the Washington, DC office of the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation. Earlier in her career, Brown worked at both for-profit and not-for-profit development implementers and was an Assistant Professor at Western Michigan University. She earned her Ph.D. in economics from the University of Michigan where she was a National Science Foundation Fellow.


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