What is a Theory of Change?
If you are looking for THE THEORY OF CHANGE you’ve come to the wrong place. This is not about a general theory. A Theory of Change is a specific explanation of how you think your service will achieve what it is setting out to achieve. You need to write it yourself. When you have, you’ll have something that looks like a road-map that you can use to develop strategy and make decisions.
The idea of setting out a map of how outcomes would be achieved began because some evaluators saw that we could understand the kind of complex work the sector does better if the assumptions that underpin the work we do were more clearly set out.
Carol Weiss popularised the term 'Theory of Change' in 1995 as a way to describe the set of assumptions (or theories) that explain all the steps that lead to achieving a long-term goal, and the connections between program activities and outcomes that occur at each step of the way.
This helps us link what we do, day to day, with the long changes we want to see in the community.
Writing a Theory of Change will not magically answer all your reporting, planning and evaluation challenges. But it will help you to ask different, and more challenging, questions about your program and your planning.
When you create a Theory of Change you describes the outcomes that you expect as a result of your work. To write a Theory of Change you will need to be specific about the assumptions (what you know or believe) that lead to your understanding of how events will unfold and the links between what your service will do and the outcomes that will be achieved. It’s best to do this as a team so you create consensus around what you are trying to achieve.