This is an Eval Central archive copy, find the original at freshspectrum.com.
This is a series of posts providing quick of overviews of important topics in research and evaluation. Each post in this series will include 3 cartoons from my archives along with 3 links to recommended resources.
Telling the story of a program.
A theory of change is a description of why a particular way of working will be effective, showing how change happens in the short, medium and long term to achieve the intended impact. It can be represented in a visual diagram, as a narrative, or both.
Connecting the Pieces
Not only does the ToC show the outcomes/preconditions, it also outlines the causal linkages in an intervention between the shorter-term, intermediate, and longer-term outcomes. The identified changes are mapped—as the “outcomes pathway”—showing each outcome in logical relationship to all the others, as well as chronological flow.
Ideally, every outcome/precondition should be accompanied by at least one indicator to measure success.
Too much at stake not to have a clearly defined process.
Thinking through a theory of change shows how the work progresses. It doesn’t stop the work.
Some stakeholders may react in frustration to the theory of change development process because they view it as “taking time to think” which takes time away from “doing the work.” However, the thinking involved in developing a theory of change does not in any way preclude doing the work … it is almost impossible to determine whether progress has occurred in a community change initiative if you have not explicitly identified the steps to progress. Communities have too much at stake to engage in work without a clearly defined purpose.
Like the cartoons? I create new cartoons regularly for my Patrons > https://www.patreon.com/freshspectrum. Patrons also get access to my private dropbox folder where I store all my cartoons.