Theory Of Change & Logic Model

Building a measurable impact framework to direct your strategy 

Introduction to a Theory of Change and Logic Model

 

What is a Theory of Change?

A Theory of Change is a framework that allows socially driven organisations to define long-term impact and articulate the actions that the organisation will take to enable that impact — working backwards from this targeted impact, outlining the necessary steps to success, including activities, outputs and outcomes.

A Theory of Change provides the foundation for impact management, and can be used as a basis for strategy, measurement, and communication. The output is a diagram that illustrates how activities will lead to the impacts that an intervention seeks to achieve.

What is a Logic Model?

The term ‘Logic Model’ is often used interchangeably with Theory of Change, however it is distinct in that it does not describe the causal link between activities and outcomes. A Logic Model includes problem statements, activities, desired outcomes, and impacts.

Logic models are used when evaluating programmes that haven’t been run before, and where the causal link therefore has not been evidenced yet. We often develop a logic model when conducting independent evaluations of new or pilot programmes, in order to measure their impact and test the progress and success of the interventions.

Building a Theory of Change

Key steps to developing a Theory of Change

Undergoing the Theory of Change process is as important as the output itself. The process provides the opportunity for an organisation to reflect on what its aims are, and how to achieve them. Impact consultants can help to guide the organisation through this process, inputting their expertise on impact strategy.

There are 6 steps to developing a Theory of Change:

  1. Define the problem or issue that your organisation is trying to solve. The process starts with a situation analysis that identifies what the causes are for the problem, who is affected by it, and how the problem affects them.
  2. Articulate the long-term change that your organisation is trying to achieve to address the problems identified. This will be your organisation’s ultimate goal, and is something that the organisation contributes to, alongside other factors.
  3. Determine the short- and medium-term changes or benefits that are achieved through your organisation’s activities. These outcomes are a direct consequence of your organisation’s activities, and lead to the long-term change that you are seeking to achieve.
  4. State the activities that your organisation undertakes to address the problem. This is a statement of what you are doing or plan to achieve in the short- and medium-term changes. This includes a description of the features of the activities, as well as what is required to deliver them (inputs) and the direct quantifiable results of these activities (outputs).
  5. Explain how the activities lead to the desired change. This is the ‘golden thread’ in the Theory of Change, which links the activities to the outcomes and impacts, and explains how change is created, what assumptions are made, and what other contextual factors play a role in creating change.
  6. Build your Theory of Change. Now that you have collected the required information, you can go about structuring your Theory of Change. Decide which sections to display, and what the logical flow is from problems, activities, outcomes and impacts.

Example of a Theory of Change output:

The output of the Theory of Change process is a diagram that shows how the problem is connected to the activities the organisation conducts, and the outcomes and impacts that it is trying to create. We have shown an example Theory of Change from a fictional youth employment organisation below. 

 

The benefits of a Theory of Change

 A Theory of Change can benefit your organisation in the following ways:

  • Clarity in your strategic direction. By articulating the connection between activities and impacts, organisations are able to focus their energy and resources on the activities that are most aligned with the impact they seek to create.
  • The foundation for impact measurement and evaluation. A Theory of Change helps to identify what to measure when assessing your organisational or programmatic impact. In order to do so, each component in the Theory of Change will need to be assigned measurable indicators and the tools required to capture the relevant data.
  • Insight into the progress and performance of your programmes. Performance management ties tightly to impact management — together an organisation is able to drive efficiency and effectiveness across their activities, enabling greater impact.
  • An effective tool for communication. The Theory of Change allows you to articulate your organisational path, from action to impact, clearly and accessibly. You may utilise your Theory of Change to communicate with:

— Beneficiaries — helping them understand what your organisation is trying to achieve and how they may be served.

— Staff and supporters — strengthening and aligning their understanding of the organisation’s impact and their role in enabling that change.

— Funders and investors — making the case for investment and support with clear ambitions and outcomes, and improving their understanding of what and why they should invest their time and money.

— Policymakers and other organisations — creating awareness for the problem your organisation is trying to solve, and driving wider system change.

What makes a good Theory of Change

Key factors to help make your Theory of Change a powerful tool:

  • Key stakeholders are involved in the Theory of Change process, to gain their insights and experiences, and obtain their support for it. Carefully consider which stakeholders to involve, and when in the process; some may be better suited to feed in at an early stage, whereas others may be better placed to validate the final output.
  • All components in your Theory of Change are specific enough to be measurable. Include definitions of terms where appropriate.
  • The Theory of Change is based on experiences, insights, and research, to ensure that the stated outcomes are achievable by your organisation.
  • The Theory of Change diagram is clearly recognised as a key organisational product. Ensure that the Theory of Change is well formatted and associated with your organisational brand.
  • The Theory of Change is tested with the audiences that matter to your organisation. The diagram should be easily understood, and should feel representative of your organisation.
  • Contextual factors and assumptions are clearly understood and acknowledged. Explain how your activities lead to the desired outcomes, and what other factors are involved in order for the outcomes to be created.

Theory of Change & Logic Model support

Aleron has been supporting organisations with Theory of Change and Logic Model development for over 10 years, since the inception of our firm. Our specialist consultants work with organisations to guide them through their Theory of Change and Logic Model process, leveraging our experience and lessons learned from other organisations. Our robust and tailored process ensures that you identify what matters most to you and your stakeholders and develop a Theory of Change that helps you achieve your ambitions.

If you would like to know more, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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