Theory of change

The Theory of Change explains your organization's intended path to change by outlining causal linkages in an initiative.

What is this for?

The Theory of Change (ToC) explains your organization’s intended path to impact by outlining causal linkages in an initiative (i.e. its shorter- term, intermediate, and longer- term outcomes).

It is a comprehensive description of how and why a desired change is expected to happen in a particular context. The framework is built backwards, from the ultimate goal to identify all the conditions that must be in place for the goals to occur. This creates a sequence of logical steps known as a “pathway of change”. It is a powerful planning and communication tool.

The model was adapted from the traditional theory of change in different ways: the use of macro and micro views, the integration of a feedback loop for iterative thinking, and the graphical representation.

Purpose of this Theory of Change Framework:

  1. Move forward on the project by developing an actionable plan that can be implemented and evaluated
  2. Communicate with and recruit external stakeholders and funding partners in order to deliver our plan
  3. Report results to a greater ecosystem in order to influence policymakers and stakeholders

Step-by-step guide

Step 1

Determine the Impact Vision of the Theory of Change.

The Impact Vision is the systemic change that you expect to see in the long- term. In other words, this the long- term goal of the overall initiative that may take several years. What is the long- term ambition of the social impact initiative? What is the ultimate change you desire to create with your project? What are your assumptions to support this?

Step 2

Determination of the work streams.

What are the three main categories that structure the project? What are your assumptions to support this? Give a title and an outline to each workstream.

Step 3

Determination of the outcomes for each workstream. 

What are the realistic and achievable envisioned goals of each workstream? What are its different time components? What are your assumptions to support that these outcomes lead to the Impact Vision?

Step 4

Determination of the outputs for each workstream. 

Immediate results of the activities or products. Positive indicators that the outcomes are on track.

Step 5

Determination of the activities and interventions for each workstream.

The interventions are events or actions your program or group of stakeholders will undertake for each output to happen. Each output is linked to one intervention (but an intervention can deliver more than one output).

Step 6

Determination of the inputs for each workstream.

What are the teams (actively involved), the stakeholders (passively involved), the resources (human, financial, technical) and capabilities (skills, fields of expertise, etc) required for the successful realization of each intervention and the initiative overall? What are your assumptions to support this?

Step 7

Determination of the responsible persons and follow-up.

Assign a responsible person from your team to each work stream. They must have some form of expertise and responsibilities over most of the activities covered.

Step 8

Towards implementation and evaluation.

We will continue to use this framework as guiding path for the implementation and evaluation of our impact model. Using a feedback loop, we can ensure that the assumptions and pathways are accurate in leading toward our long-term vision.

An online tool

We have also developed this as an online tool in Miro, that you can copy and use interactively.

When you download the tool, you will receive an email with the Miro board.

theory of change workshop

Get the tool!

Fill in this form to get an interactive Miro board tool along with a PDF download of the tool.

Other relevant tools and guides

Social impact explanatory cards

Use these cards to get familiar with the SDG’s and get an initial understanding of how your business challenge could contribute to them.

Social impact wheel

Review your innovation strategy and find out how your organization is impacting the 17 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals by UN).

One step closer to meaningful innovation

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