Creative Consulting & Development Works

We are a research, evaluation and communications consultancy, servicing nonprofits, governments and donors with innovative solutions within the development context.

Integrating appreciative inquiry in a theory of change workshop for an ECD programme

18 May 2018

Early Childhood Development (ECD) at its best is about practitioners who put the child first, and are more caring.  Creative Consulting and Development Works endeavors to incorporate creative and innovative elements in our work so we included Appreciative Inquiry (AI) in a recent Theory of Change (ToC) workshop with a client who implements ECD programmes.

The workshop started with background on what ToC, Theory of Action (ToA) and Logic Models are, followed by examples of what a ToC can look like. Participants were then confident enough to build their programme’s ToC, guided by a set of questions. Participants worked hard, and through lively discussion and inputs, they plotted their high-level ToC. Below is an outline of the workshop process:

Once this brain-twisting exercise was done, participants went on to some “easier” work. The group had to consider what ECD looks like at its’ best. A thorough AI process can take an entire day or more, but can be adapted. With only one day for the entire workshop, the team adapted the AI methodology to fit into an hour.  Four simple questions, and five steps were used, as shown below:

With only four participants expectations were not very high of what could be achieved from the exercise with such a small group.  There was a risk of not getting any common themes at all. The process required that common themes had to be identified from participants’ stories, and that these themes had to be prioritised according to their potential to design the best possible ECD programme.

Despite these concerns, the group were not disappointed. It was proved once again that AI “lights up” our thinking and identifies important aspects that may be otherwise overlooked. The themes that emerged (ranked in terms of importance) were:

  • Putting children first – making environment ready for them; focusing on their needs and designing the school environment according to children’s needs, including those with diverse abilities.   
  • ECD practitioners who are more caring and go the extra mile for the learners.
  • Better relationships with parents and recognising them as key in their children’s development.
  • All stakeholders are motivated and engaged.  

Some of these themes were already incorporated to some extent, but the AI exercise made its importance clear, ensuring that these aspects will be included more prominently in the programme. Most importantly, however, is that the themes identified in the AI exercise points to critical values underpinning ECD at its best.  Infusing these values explicitly in the programme will enhance the impact of the programme.


Workshop feedback:-

  • I have improved knowledge on how to develop a M&E ToC. I liked the practical aspects to the workshop.

  • Good workshop. Lots of headway made. Better understanding of the M&E tools for me. The process of getting to the final outcome was good. 

  • Now I understand the theory of change in ECD. 

  • I loved the way she facilitated the workshop, simple, open-ended and quite fun.  

Article written by Fia van Rensburg  for Creative Consultants & Development Works

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