Theories of change
What is a Theory of Change?
“A theory of change is the articulation of the underlying beliefs and assumptions that guide a service delivery strategy and are believed to be critical for producing change and improvement. Theories of change represent beliefs about what is needed by the target population and what strategies will enable them to meet those needs. They establish a context for considering the connection between a system’s mission, strategies and actual outcomes, while creating links between who is being served, the strategies or activities that are being implemented, and the desired outcomes.”
A theory of change has two broad components:
The first component involves conceptualizing and operationalizing the three core frames of the theory.
These frames define:
- Populations: who is being served.
- Strategies: what strategies you believe will accomplish desired outcomes.
- Outcomes: what you intend to accomplish.
The second component of a theory of change involves building an understanding of the relationships among the three core elements and expressing those relationships clearly. The theory of change is defined by the three core elements and the relationship that exists between them.
Theory of change for the three Research Strategies
Why a theory of change?
Ultimately, having a theory of change helps those implementing strategies to understand assumptions and expectations that guide their decisions, actions and resulting accomplishments.