Force Field Method

This approach is set out persuasively by Les Robinson and summarised below. Robinson emphasises how lots of people have lots of different ideas about what is causing or would cause a particular change.

As it is difficult to identify the best idea, his approach to ToC seeks to weigh the different factors that could contribute positively to that change. To this end, he uses the ‘What Would It Take Force Field’ method.

The method involves:

  • Get well informed on issues such as: What is the problem? How great is the problem? What lessons have been learnt elsewhere?
  • Identify people whose actions can make a difference.

These people may include:

  1. People living with the problem
  2. People who may have to live with the solution
  3. People with special expertise or life experience that bears on the situation

Invite these individuals to a forum and ask them to consider:

  1. The desired outcome
  2. What, exactly, is the problem?
  3. How could you measure the problem?

Then ask each participant to help you as a facilitator to list negative and positive forces as per the diagram below.

The group then agrees the top three or four negative forces that need to be tackled and positive forces that should be reinforced.

By adding a verb, you create your project’s objectives. So, a negative force causing maize crop damage could be stem borer insects, and a positive force might be the possibility of using biological and cultural controls. As such, OBJECTIVE 1 might be ‘to reduce crop damage by stem borer insects. OBJECTIVES 2 and 3 might be ‘to introduce biological controls’ (e.g. certain ants can reduce damage by stem borer insects) and ‘to reinforce cultural controls’ (the removal of dead crops from fields).

You then need to add indicators: By what percentage are you seeking to reduce crop damage? how extensive and/or how quickly are you introducing controls?

According to Robinson, the ToC can be stated quite simply:


“we achieve progress towards OBJECTIVE 1; AND
we achieve progress towards OBJECTIVE 2; AND
we achieve progress towards OBJECTIVE 3;


We will achieve progress towards THE DESIRED PROGRAM

Your program now becomes an experiment to test that explicit hypothesis. As you collect evidence you’ll be able to refine and modify the theory of change so that it becomes an even better match to reality.”

Click here to return to the top of the page and here to explore our recommended approach: building the Theory of Change into the 1-2-3 method.