printUse ctrl + p to print the page

What is Theory of Change about?

Different organisations think quite differently about the term ‘theory of change’.

On this portal, ‘theory of change’ (ToC) refers to the understandingan organisation, project, network or group of stakeholders has about how political, social, economic, and/or cultural change happens, and its contribution to such a change process. So ToC thinking is, therefore, the process of developing that understanding and using it to reflect continually in ways that allow for adaptation and checking of assumptions. 

A theory of change can be represented visually or as a narrative. Often both are needed – the description allows for in-depth discussion of power analysis, politics of change, needs and choices, actors involved. In addition, the visual representation allows for a short summary that facilitates discussion and communication about what a project or organisation does. 

Our first e-discussion led us to document a broad understanding of what ‘theory of change’ thinking included. It emphasises the politics of change, values and power analysis. And it connects the personal and organisational values and context of change to the strategies for action. 

Simple approaches can be useful, especially for those who are new to the whole idea. How tools are used is important for the quality of the discussions and the understanding that is generated. See the "How to" section on facilitating and building capacity with ToC.