An Introduction to Theory of Change

An Introduction to Theory of Change

Organisations typically have a stated purpose, a written strategy a set of activities and procedures for getting things done. However, many organisations will struggle with getting consensus on the story of how what they do moves them closer to their purpose. This is where Theories of Change are useful. A Theory of Change is an evidence-based story of how and why an initiative works.

Given the pernicious and wicked nature of many of the problems we face, and as humanity enters a “code red” scenario (based on the recent IPCC report) there is a growing demand for stories of change that can bear scrutiny.

Theory of Change

Theory of Change – has the potential to change everything

A Theory of Change (ToC) is relevant when:

  • You need a better understanding of the change process and the steps leading to impact
  • You want to use the collaborative ToC process to build a sense of ownership across your stakeholders or value chain
  • You want a better understanding of the nuance within which your organisation operates
  • You want a credible, understandable and evidence-based story of how your initiative delivers societal or environmental value
  • You want to create a basis for becoming a better learning organisation
  • You want to get clearer on what you need to monitor so that you can better evaluate your organisations ongoing performance
  • You are ready to use the values, beliefs, loyalties and perceptions of loss/gain as a resource for invigourating your initiative
  • You want to replicate your intervention in another context.

Key things to keep in mind about Theory of Change:

  • A Theory of Change is a model of how a group of people representing different perspectives collectively understand how a strategy, through a chain of intermediate steps, results in an impact
  • Theory of Change is a process and a product. It involves an ongoing process of agenda-free dialogue and free-form learning that produces insights with practical application to intervention design, strategy, monitoring and impact assessment that is communicated regularly and in multiple formats
  • Theory of Change is a mindset that understands how social, political and cultural factors integrate to influence the change process and that reflects continuously on this dynamic to allow for ongoing adaptation.
  • Theory of Change is a collection of hypotheses and assumptions that are explicitly stated, causally linked and that are empirically tested.
  • Theory of Change is a participative process where all key players are involved in the dialogue and the sense-making so that each of their roles in the change process is clarified.

Contact us to discuss how your organisation might apply a Theory of Change.

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