Every community needs a roadmap for change. A theory of change (TOC) outlines how to create that change. Developing a theory of change framework is an essential part of a successful community transformation effort. This manual, created for the Casey Foundation's Making Connections initiative, defines theory of change using Casey's impact, influence and leverage platform, and shows community advocates how to develop a theory of change model by showing the relationships between outcomes, assumptions, strategies and results.
The label theory of change is often referred to by other terms, such as pathway of change, engine of change, blueprint, logic model and theory of action. Regardless of the label, a theory of change offers a picture of important destinations and guides you on what to look for on the journey to ensure you are on the right pathway. In other words, without a theory of change, a community is vulnerable to wandering aimlessly.
Sample Theories of Change
This report offers real-world examples of theories of change in action, including this framework used by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Making Connections (Page 38).
Thinking through a theory of change shows how the work progresses. It doesn't stop the work.
Theory of Change Findings & Stats
Without a theory of change, a community is vulnerable to wandering aimlessly.
The theory of change is a practical and essential part of a successful transformation effort.
Customized for Communities
There is no right or wrong way to draw an outcome map; each map will look different, depending on the community’s unique needs and preferences.
Outcomes can be “mapped” in a linear or causal sequence, though change is typically more complex than a simple cause-and-effect relationship.
Statements & Quotations
Every community needs a roadmap for change. Instead of bridges, avenues and freeways, this map would illustrate destinations of progress and the routes to travel on the way to achieving progress. The map would also provide commentary about assumptions, such as the final destination, the context for the map, the processes to engage in during the journey and the belief system that underlies the importance of traveling in a particular way. This type of map is called a "theory of change."
Core capacities are the building blocks that enable powerful strategies to become actualized. These capacities include people, processes, supports, models, techniques, structures, plans, frameworks and other inputs needed to enact, bring to scale and sustain powerful change. You can achieve impact, influence and leverage outcomes if you develop core capacities that function well.