Theory of ChangeLearning from the United StatesNCVO Campaigns Conference Brian Lamb
The Issue Contrary to Marx’s famous critique that philosophers have only sought to interpret the world not to change it – campaigners have too often sought to change the world without first interpreting it.
What is Theory of Change “A theory of change lays out what specific changes the group wants to see in the world, and how and why a group expects its actions to lead to those changes.”
Provides a common language and approach for planning and evaluation where everyone has the same framework as the starting point
Builds the capacity of organisations to think more strategically about their goals
Makes implicit assumptions explicit and therefore easier to test and modify in the light of experience
Builds from the actual strategies and activities that campaigners undertake but gives a clear framework to integrate thinking about these
Keeps focus on the final goal to be achieved and clarity about steps along the way
Provides a framework for developing different scenarios about how change might happen and how to plan for contingencies.
What are the Steps? Stating a clear aim Mapping activities to achieve your campaign aim Outcomes and how to get there – using ‘so that’ chains Understanding how social change happens-Outcome mapping Capacity of the organisation to achieve change Evaluation built into the model
Advantages for Evaluation Being able to set a clear and testable hypothesis about how change will occur that allows accountability for results, but also increases credibly because the change was predicted to occur in a certain way The ability to articulate a Theory of Change about how and why the activities of a given campaign will lead to the end result the campaign is trying to achieve Using a ‘Theory of Change’ as a framework to define measurable benchmarks and indicators e.g. the number of supporter actions achieved, changes in legislation or funding – for assessing both progress towards a desired policy change and building organisational capacity for campaigning in general An agreement among stakeholders about what defines success and what it takes to get there The ability to test the assumptions about what political, social and economic factors could influence the outcome of the change being sought, and to find any gaps in the stages of the process, necessary to achieve the change being attempted An agreed basis for reports to funders, policymakers and boards that will remain consistent over time