Context Analysis Matrix

  • Objective: Conduct a contextual analysis that can be repeated periodically to monitor trends, reduce risks, and adjust assumptions affecting the theory of change
  • Participants: Program design team

Step 1

Identify the aspects of the context to be analyzed, keeping in mind that contextual analysis is NOT the same as UCP/V analysis. In the analysis, include implications for each of your Impact Groups.

  • Regional context, plus global trends as applicable
  • National context
  • Local context

For each,

  • Social, political, geo-political, cultural dimension
  • Demographic dimension
  • Economic context, including NRM
  • Environmental context
  • Development space context, including donors


Step 2

Prepare context analysis matrix, summarizing findings for each of these aspects and identifying key trends (highlights of the analysis) to be watched over time. The analysis should also include considerations of future scenarios/forecasts, as relevant:




CARE CO: Implications for Impact Group









Step 3

Identify critical elements of the contextual analysis and trends applicable to each program.


Step 4

Prepare individual context analysis matrix for each program reflecting the critical elements identified for that program.


Step 5

Identify trigger factors for the contextual analysis. Triggers of analysis are events or processes that signal to you that an analysis of the context, or an update of your contextual analysis, is needed again:

→ Internal to CARE

  • LRSP process (review or development)
  • AOP (review or development)
  • Design of new program
  • A key or large assessment process related to impact tracking of changes toward impact vision

→ External to CARE

  • Major political change
  • Major shift of strategic donors (priority, policy, focus)
  • Major change in government plans, priorities, etc.
  • Etc.


Step 6

If any of these triggers of analysis occurs, conduct a contextual analysis, keeping in mind the following criteria:

  • Select an appropriate method for the analysis and apply it rigorously
  • The first time a trigger occurs, do a complete detailed analysis, as defined in the context analysis matrix. The second, third, etc. times a trigger occurs, focus on those areas that have experienced significant change since the last analysis, only updating those cells of the matrixes that need updates.
  • Reflect on the trends you have identified for tracking
  • Review forecasts/future scenarios and update as needed
  • Enter the updates the analysis has produced into your matrix


Step 7

Conduct a stakeholders analysis, considering the following questions, and reflect the summary of this stakeholder analysis in cells of the matrix as relevant:

  • Actors, networks, movements
  • Agendas
  • Resources


Step 8

Continue updating the matrix as needed, keeping it a living document:

  • Update cells if a change has occurred
  • Enter new trends
  • Save a new copy of the matrix every time, instead of changing one and the same copy, so you have a record of changes in the context over time and institutional memory
  • Keep the matrix to 1 page so it’s user-friendly and used
  • Make discussions of the context a regular feature of staff meetings