A development hypothesis states what will occur if a particular intervention is undertaken, or a combination of several building blocks that are critical for bringing about a particular development outcome are put in place. USAID's CDCS guidance makes it clear that these propositions cannot simply be wishes. USAID expects development hypotheses to be grounded in evidence.
In the Development Hypothesis section of a CDCS, USAID requires a short narrative that articulates the hypothesized linkages between a CDCS Goal, each DO that supports it, and, in turn, the linkages between each DO and its supporting IRs and sub-IRs. USAID staff who have experience developing a Results Framework will recognize, on the right, the graphic devices that tool uses for expressing development hypotheses.
In a Development Hypothesis narrative, hypotheses are often written out as causal "if-then" propositions. Several such propositions laid out in a sequence describe a strategy’s "theory of change."
If maritime transport costs decline, the volume of trade in the target country will increase.
If port efficiency is increased, then maritime transport costs for exporters and importers will decline.
If goods-handling systems at the ports are automated, then port efficiency will rise.
Laid out this way, each of the causal hypotheses that underlie a Mission’s strategy is both potentially testable and specified in a way that can be monitored and evaluated.
For this theory of change, would the Mission involved be able to cite references to demonstrate that its strategy was "evidence-based?" Absolutely. Over the past decade, a significant body of literature has emerged, based largely on multi-country regression analyses, demonstrating that results along this chain to be highly associated, making it likely, though not certain, that if USAID invests in a strategy based on this theory of change the results it expects will materialize.