Theory of Change

Youth Combatting Neglected Tropical Diseases

The Client

Youth Combating NTDs is a global community of young people who are fighting to end Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). This youth-focused and led initiative, is designed to mainstream the participation of young people within the NTD community across all its activities. Youth Combating NTDs is an initiative of Uniting to Combat NTDs and Future Africa Forum.

As the learning partner, inFocus designed a participatory process to develop the YCNTDs Theory of Change. In April 2022, inFocus facilitated a workshop for Youth Combating NTDs (YCNTDs) and Uniting to Combat NTDs in South Africa to develop a Theory of Change. This was the first time the Youth Advisory Board had met in person since commencing work two years prior. The aim of the workshop was to amplify NTDs globally, to reflect together and restrategise. The idea was to provide an important space for reflection on learnings and the opportunity to map a preliminary impact strategy for YCNTDs, and lay the groundwork for how activities could be developed and scaled.  

The workshop brought together participants from four continents, with representation from Tanzania, Bangladesh, Canada, the UK, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and the Philippines.  


The Challenge

YCNTDs sought to put in place a strategy to enhance young people’s voice and action to end NTDs. Convening diverse stakeholders including young activites and making sure that everyone was heard were two key challenges this project aimed to overcome. The inFocus team worked closely with the Uniting to Combat NTDs Secretariat team, and young people from Youth Combating NTDs, to deliver a participatory process to develop theory of change which main objectives were:
  • Get Uniting to Combat NTDs’ staff and YCNTDs’ ‘on the same page’ in relation to the work of the movement, anticipated impacts and assumptions.
  • Align with and support the current Uniting to Combat NTDs strategy. 
  • Act as a basis for a monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) framework.

Our Approach

inFocus conducted both in-person and online workshops to ensure an inclusive environment for all to participate and contribute. The diverse expertise, backgrounds, and lived experiences brought multifaceted perspectives to the theory of change process through a participatory approach. Various lenses were adopted, and creativity was leveraged as a pivotal tool to generate and convey ideas, spanning from artistic expression to dramatic enactment. Group discussions were encouraged to be dynamic, fostering debate and reflection on the priorities to be included in the theory of change. After extensive deliberations perspectives were synthesized into a cohesive, visual and impactful direction for YCNTDs. 

Scope of Work

The theory of change project development was structured across the following phases: 

  • Running Inception: A remote inception meeting between inFocus and key members of the Uniting to Combat NTDs teams took place to discuss and agree the project plan, map out key stakeholders and how they could get involved (e.g. Youth Combatting NTDs), agree logistics for the Johannesburg workshop, identify key information/documentation for inFocus to review, and discuss and agree ethical guidelines. The meeting involved reviewing different theory of change designs and formats to ensure that the end product met the needs of Uniting to Combat NTDs. At inception, the inFocus team reviewed existing work/secondary documentation relevant to the theory of change that could be used in its development and to think about how the theories of change could be structured ahead of the workshop. 
  • Delivering a 2 day Theory of Change Workshop: The inFocus team worked with the Uniting to Combat NTDs Secretariat to design the workshop approach, built around a detailed project agenda agreed between the two teams. inFocus used an online survey to collect information from stakeholders ahead of the workshop, helping to develop a draft theory of change to take into the workshop by asking respondents to describe the different areas of a theory of change (e.g. which problem to address, outcomes etc.).The workshop in Johannesburg was delivered for 12 participants, with 5 additional participants joining remotely. Creative games and exercises were used to ensure that the workshop was fun and engaging, while following best practice guidelines for following an inclusive and ethical approach. 
  • Developing and Verifying a First Draft of the Theory of Change: Following the workshop, a draft 1-page theory of change and narrative was developed to share with participants from the workshop (and wider stakeholders). The draft was sent to the Uniting to Combat NTDs Secretariat team, and the young people that took part in the online and in-person workshops for review, prior to running an online verification workshop to discuss feedback as a group 
  • Finalising the Theory of Change: Following the verification workshop, the inFocus team developed a final version of the theory of change with the 1-page version developed in PowerPoint and a brief narrative developed in Word. 

Project Impact

The Theory of Change project allowed YCTNDs to unlock a wide range of discussions about how to nurture the youth movement within the NTDs space with emphasis on accountability and social justice in collective efforts to eradicate NTDs globally. The Theory of Change process was key to practically reflect on actionable pathways to empower young individuals to evolve into advocates and leaders within the NTD movement.  

inFocus ensured there was time dedicated to structuring activities aligned with YCNTDs’ major aspirations while supporting ongoing NTD initiatives from local to global scales. Strategic planning revolved around forthcoming pivotal moments for NTD advocacy and accountability, commencing with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali later that year.  

From the workshop content inFocus compiled and summarised the unified vision and strategic roadmap, paving the way for YCNTDs to assertively advance their objectives in the NTD landscape. 

The impact from the client’s perspective was as follows: inFocus facilitated the transformation of our ideas into actionable goals through a theory of change workshop that was delivered in a participatory manner using exercises that were not only thought-provoking but also engaging! Thanks to their support we now have a robust strategy which is anchored on the theory of change exercise we did with them.

Read more about YCNTDs’ experience of the theory of change development process on their blog:

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