Building evidence

How is the theory of change created?

A Theory of Change (also known as the Pathway of Change) is a strategy that allows us to identify and explain all of the necessary steps and conditions required to create long-term changes in our community. The Theory of Change is a strategy that allows us to visually depict what needs to be changed and how we think the change will occur within our communities. In other words, it allows us to plan for change and allows us to reflect and reevaluate achievements along the way.

How can my organization build our own theory of change?

A logic model differs from a Theory of Change in that it focuses on a chain of events required to achieve a specific program. A Theory of Change presents a wide range of programs, aimed at creating long-term change; these programs can be take place simultaneously or in a particular or chronological sequence.

There are many ways to represent a Theory of Change. However, what is always similar across Theory of Change models is that you start at the end. Your first step is always identifying the goal or change you expect to achieve in the long run—long-term outcome. From there you begin mapping backwards the necessary steps to reach your long-term outcome.

Creating a theory of change is a large endeavor; however, it can be helpful in your long term planning.  Although we do not go into detail about a step by step process for creating a theory of change, we do offer some information for your knowledge and resources that can guide you in this task.

Below are the elements of a Theory of Change model which will aid you in the development and shaping of a model for your organization. Elements include:

  • Long-term Outcomes (vision of success): refers to the change you want to accomplish. This change will take time and can vary from one community to another, for some it can take a few years, for others it could be decades.
  • Preconditions: refers to all of the changes that need to happen to reach the long-term outcome or vision of success.
  • Interventions (pathway of change): refers to the programs, initiatives, and strategies which allow us to reach the desired outcomes.
  • Indicators of Success: refers to the visible, measurable changes that help us determine whether or not success has been achieved.
A Theory of Change: A Healthy Community that is free of Domestic Violence

You can find more resources on Theory of Change in the Resources section as well as read more about Esperanza United’s theory of change.