Academic research into the evaluation of donor and foundation-support to journalism/media development and its consequences for the independence of beneficiaries.
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Institute of Applied Media Studies (IAM) of Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) - CHRISTOPH SPURK & Dr. CARMEN KOCH

The unit on democratisation, decentralisation and local governance (DDLG) within the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) is in charge of this thematic domain, as well as of governance as a transversal theme, and of political economy. It is responsible for enhancing thematic quality of respective SDC programmes, for animating knowledge management and joint learning within the DDLG network, for developing SDC policies and positioning SDC at a global level. As part of the collaboration between SDC/DDLG and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Sussex, Brighton, the Institute of Applied Media Studies (IAM) of Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW), Winterthur, has been mandated to produce a review and an analysis of the Theories of Change used in the fields of Media and Governance. The analysis should look at Theories of Change used by SDC and by Fondation Hirondelle, one of the main organisations in Switzerland working in media support in post-conflict countries. In addition, the Theories of Change used by other international donors or implementing organisations should be investigated and compared to insights stemming from academic empirical research on media effects in the field of governance. Based on this review, conclusions should be drawn with the aim of enabling donors to improve their decision-making on strategies in future programmes on governance with media components. The review should also help to understand more clearly, how media support projects work, how they aim to achieve their objectives on various levels, and how to develop meaningful indicators and conduct insightful evaluations in the future.
II. Research Questions
The review was planned on one hand as being open for any kind of observations emerging from a comparison of the documents, but on the other hand to be conducted under the following specific research questions:
  • RQ1: What layers of the media sector are usually chosen in the Theories of Change (for example: journalists, media organisations, legal environment, media economics)?
  • RQ2: Are there specific associations in the Theories of Change; for example between media and elections, or media and decentralisation, or specific media-related objectives within the governance area; for example, transparency, participation, or dialogue?
  • RQ3: Are there specific differences in Theories of Change between SDC and other donors or implementing organisations?
  • RQ4: What are the differences between the Theories of Change used by donors or implementing organisations and the research evidence from academic literature?
  • RQ5: As a conclusion, is it relevant to develop a holistic Theory of Change for the media environment or, more relevant, to create specific Theories of Change; for example, according to specific objectives (democratisation, civic participation, anti-corruption, peace) or according to layers within the media sector or the governance area?
A useful summary is available here:
The Use of Theories of Change in Media and Governance Programmes
The Communication Initiative Network
Christoph Spurk presented during Theories of change and impact measurment - 15 March 2021 meeting , presentation is avalable here:
Christoph Spurk's presentation - March 15th 2021 meeting

Palgrave Studies in Communication for Social Change - JESSICA NOSKE-TURNER

Rethinking Media Development through Evaluation - Beyond Freedom | Jessica Noske-Turner | Palgrave Macmillan
This book argues for an overhaul of the way media assistance is evaluated, and explores how new thinking about evaluation can reinforce the shifts towards better media development. The pursuit of media freedom has been the bedrock of media development since its height in the 1990s. Today, citizen voice, participation, social change, government responsiveness and accountability, and other ‘demand-side’ aspects of governance, are increasingly the rubric within which assistance to media development operates. This volume will appeal to scholars and students of media development and communication for social change whilst simultaneously representing a deep commitment to translating theoretical concepts in action-oriented ways.

Global Media Journal: German Edition - JESSICA NOSKE-TURNER

Evaluating the Impacts of Media Assistance: Problems and Principles
Global Media Journal
While some form of evaluation has always been a requirement of development projects, in the media assistance field this has predominantly been limited to very basic modes of counting outputs, such as the number of journalists trained or the number of articles produced on a topic. Few media assistance evaluations manage to provide sound evidence of impacts on governance and social change. So far, most responses to the problem of media assistance impact evaluation collate evaluation methodologies and methods into toolkits.
This paper suggests that the problem of impact evaluation of media assistance is understood to be more than a simple issue of methods, and outlines three underlying tensions and challenges that stifle implementation of effective practices in media assistance evaluation.
First, there are serious conceptual ambiguities that affect evaluation design. Second, bureaucratic systems and imperatives often drive evaluation practices, which reduces their utility and richness.
Third, the search for the ultimate method or toolkit of methods for media assistance evaluation tends to overlook the complex epistemological and political undercurrents in the evaluation discipline, which can lead to methods being used without consideration of the ontological implications.
Only if these contextual factors are known and understood can effective evaluations be designed that meets all stakeholders’ needs.


For non-academic research, reports and articles on evaluation go to


This resource page is a work in progress. Please get in touch to let us know what is missing using this form.
Last modified 8mo ago