RICE uses a number of impact pathways and theories of change to achieve development impacts from its research and development efforts.

RICE’s overall impact pathway follows a pipeline approach: discovery research leads to innovations, which leads to novel prototype products and services such as new varieties, management technologies, capacity development materials, or policy support information. Such products and services are developed in a highly participatory manner and have gone through a period of field testing.

When ‘proof of concept’ is obtained, a new phase of the impact pathway starts with dissemination at pilot scale (with a few farmers or villagers) and will eventually increase at provincial, national, and even global levels when successful. In this process, research organizations, extension services, NGOs, and public- and private-sector agencies are involved as intermediate users. End users are the actors along the rice value chain such as farmers, millers, processors, traders and consumers, and input suppliers.

RICE works along three overarching impact pathways: genetic improvement, sustainable management, and strong value chains.

Example of typical annual outputs and outcomes along the impact pway for improved rice varieties

Though there is a general direction of change in the impact pathway—from discovery research to impact at scale—the processes involved are complex with many learning moments and feedback loops.

RICE’s theories of change describe these processes, causal linkages, and underlying assumptions. Operational impact pathways and their underlying theories of change vary by product and service and are highly contextual and site-specific. Because of this, RICE has developed explicit theories of change for each of its five flagship projects, and for many specific ‘technology × location’ combination.

Partners play a key role in all stages of the impact pathway and each partner delivers well-defined outcomes. Research organizations are involved at the start, with outputs delivered primarily by RICE scientists. As the pathway moves forward, development organizations become more involved to disseminate research outcomes to end users.

RICE activities promote an enabling environment for change to happen. These activities include capacity development, communication, providing open access to its products and services, and fostering gender awareness and equity.