‘Without proper evaluation, failure is inevitable’ – John Wooden

You probably have heard of one of these words; theory of change, results chain, logic model, program theory, outcome mapping, impact pathway, or investment logic.

When applying for funding or applying to join incubator programs, words like these are all over the application forms. So in this article, we will break down these words, what they mean, why you need them, and how to do them.

All the words above have the same meaning, so we’ll go ahead with the phrase Theory of Change. Theory of Change is simply the process by which change will happen. It is how a project will lead to impact.

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.”

Applications for funding and incubator programs, usually require the development of your Theory of Change for your intended program/projects completed because it

1)     Leads to a better understanding of how your program/project’s activities will lead to change

2)     Leads to better strategic planning

3)     Aids in more effective program/project evaluation

4)     Identifies gaps in data

5)     Aids in more effective communication with stakeholders

Theory of Change is usually developed during program/project evaluation by the evaluator, however, it is better to develop one with all stakeholders on your program/project as you are designing your program/project as it helps you focus on your impact, activities, and the links between both.

So how exactly do we develop a Theory of Change?

Step 1: Conduct a situation analysis to assess the needs and problems your program/project intends to address

Step 2: Identify the key audience for your program/project; the audience that will receive the impact

Step 3: Identify your long-term goals. This is your intended change

Step 4: Identify what conditions must be in place in order to achieve these long-term goals. These are your outcomes. Also, map out how these conditions are related and who will be in charge of implementing these activities.

Step 5: Identify your outputs also known as indicators. These are the metrics on which each outcome will be measured.

Step 6: Determine the activities also known as interventions that will lead to your outcomes. Also, identify who will be tasked with implementing these activities.

Step 7:  Identify the key assumptions, justifications you will be making, and any risks you envision along the way.

Your Theory of Change must be CAST; credible, achievable, supported by your stakeholders, and testable.

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