More and more we are hearing the words, “What is your Theory of Change (TOC)?” This is not to be confused with the pattern of change below:
While change begins when we are first made aware of some new information and we make a decision that this different way of thinking or doing things could benefit us, and ends with a sustained habit, this does not constitute a Theory of Change.
A TOC has been defined as “a strategy or blueprint for achieving large-scale, long-term goals. It identifies the preconditions, pathways and interventions necessary for an initiative's success.” A TOC is a way of looking at very complex issues that are interwoven, braided and blended together so it is difficult to break them apart into stand alone units. A TOC helps you to determine the necessary conditions and pathways to follow to have the effect and results that you desire. The Harvard Business Review, October, 2010 published an article by Robert Kaplan and Allen Grossman, that those of you in the world of after-school, and particularly non-profits engaged in the work of after-school might find interesting. “The Emerging Capital Market for Nonprofits”, discusses how “market mechanisms from the private sector could energize the nonprofit world”. On page 116 of the magazine, an interesting graphic outlines a possible TOC which could at least help you begin to think about your purpose and your theory of change.