Hivos International

We are constantly seeking to improve our understanding of the world's workings and our place in it. To us, social innovation is a means to an end, or better yet, a way to contribute to a free, fair and sustainable world. But what does that mean in practice? It means working with a broad range of stakeholders in multi-actor initiatives and conducting “Change Labs”. It means having a user-centered approach and co-creating solutions with the people we want to reach. Social innovation is open to experimenting; it links prototyping solutions to constant learning and scaling up wherever our idea bears fruit. Therefore, continuously testing our assumptions and monitoring the effects of our activities is key to our daily work. This Knowledge Dossier shows how Hivos and partners investigate social change. It showcases the methodologies that can help us become more effective change agents.

Change Labs

A stream of research in this dossier concerns social innovation methodologies to offer new ways of developing solutions. We see that failing political leadership, dysfunctional political-economic systems and glaring social contradictions are not new phenomena, but rather it is their persistence and increasing global interconnectedness that requires new approaches. Hivos has experimented with a wide array of innovative approaches, such as Change Labs. In 2014, Hivos and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) entered into a partnership to develop, test, design and establish two change labs that bring together various stakeholders around issues of food and energy. In this dossier, you will find various publications on the Food and Energy Change Labs and other social innovation processes, such as means and methods of knowledge co-creation, the changing face of development cooperation, and learnings on working with multi-actor initiatives.

Theory of Change

Hivos uses a Theory of Change approach to enhance the quality of strategic thinking and the effectiveness of its programmes and that of its partner organisations. Theory of Change thinking is the process of clarifying what assumptions an organisation, project, network or group of stakeholders has about how political, social, economic, and/or cultural change happens, and what its contribution is to such a change process. Once a Theory of Change is established, it can be updated to allow for changing circumstances and facts that require us to adjust our assumptions. This dossier presents our experiences with Theory of Change methodologies and provides practical toolkits for how to use it, including an Arabic and English Hivos’ Theory of Change Guidelines.

For insights about methods for social change, do browse through this dossier! 

Related Publications

The food system is transitioning. New initiatives, start-ups and networks of changemakers are emerging at the grassroots level, harbouring ideas and massive potential to break through. Still, we struggle with enormous challenges: depletion of...

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In Tanzania, electricity services are expanding, yet they are failing to deliver a high-quality service to end-users.

The Energy Change Lab initiative has looked at how information channels and customer feedback mechanisms can be...

While rural energy access investments – like mini-grids – can be expected to transform local economies, this doesn’t happen automatically. Catalysing local enterprises and raising incomes through productive uses of energy often requires extra...

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Our writing of this blog competed with our reading of Russel Shorto’s Amsterdam¹. Shorto’s analysis of the turbulent late 16th/17th Century is instructive for change agents struggling to transform contemporary societies. Early 17th Century Europe was in a state of chaos. Citizens, merchants and  politicians alike were gasping to make sense of fast changing times.  There was no theory of change, just a multitude of experiments driven by  a spirit of questioning and renewal in all domains of life.

Hivos and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) have entered into a strategic partnership to provide insight, evidence and guidance for improving sustainable food systems and access to energy in developing and emerging countries....

Other Knowledge Dossiers

Transparency, accountability and citizen engagement are essential for an open society where democratic institutions support and empower citizens to shape society and take control over their lives.