Week 3 – Building a Theory of Change

What is a theory of change?

A straightforward definition of the term theory of change has been provided by (Weiss, 1972) as ‘why and how an initiative works.’ This theory demonstrates how we envision change to occur as a result of our work, reflecting on the assumptions we are making in this process.

A theory of change is best developed at the start of an initiative and can be shaped by practice. However, it can also be developed after the start of a project mainly to reflect on and evaluate efforts and improve practice. Our agenda for change can be in a visual diagram, writing or video or a combination.

Why do we need a Theory of Change?

The theory can sharpen the planning and implementation of an initiative, facilitate data collection and impact measurement and strengthen our case for attributing impact to our work or otherwise (Connell & Kubisch, 1998). Conceptualising our ToC helps to clarify what should be prioritised and helps us to identify metrics for answering the question ‘what difference am I making?’ (impact measurement to be discussed in detail later on this course). This diagram explains the simple stages of a Theory of Change. You may also want to think about your assumptions and risks in the process (taken from Innovation for Social Change. )

 

Image result for theory of change simple

Or an alternative model:

Theory-of-Changeb

Things to consider when building a theory of change

1. Look at the big picture and connect the dots

There are a few questions we need to be answering when building a ToC.  What do we want to achieve (impact) with who and for whom (team and target population)? What does achieving this look like? (results/what will change?) and when do we expect to see this change (timelines)? What is needed for these outcomes to be achieved (mindsets, conditions, policies, investment, skills)? What things can be done (strategies, activities) to address these needs? How can we do this effectively (quality control)? ‘

You also need to think carefully about the assumptions you are making in the process. For example, at the start of EduSpots (then Reading Spots) we assumed that provision of books, in itself, would lead to improved literacy levels, but this simply wasn’t true. If teachers or parents were not available to support, and pupils were not interested in reading or not given access, the books sometimes had no impact at all.

2. Results and timelines

A clearly defined set of goals that we want to achieve is vital. Forti (2012) notes that a theory of change must clarify what results we will hold ourselves accountable for achieving; in other words, what results must we deliver to be successful? If the expected impact of your project is to end littering in an area, we must consider the indicators of improved sanitation. The answers to this become the results we are pursuing. Concretise the measurable results envisioned and project specific data (qualitative and quantitative) to serve as a benchmark to evaluate project activities. Clarifying timelines for both impact and activities also helps planning especially when the project is focused on people.

3. Identify what is needed and build a strategy to fill the gap

With our impact, expected results and timelines in mind, the next thing to think about is what is standing between the results we are seeking and the current situation. In simple terms, we are identifying what contributes to the problem and needs to change to bring the results we envision. Depending on your project, this may centre around developing people’s knowledge, skills and mindsets mainly through education, introducing policies and practices to influence how things are done, providing resources where needed, employing communication and advocacy, building relationships, among others.

The next task in creating your theory of change is to brainstorm and develop a strategy that when operationalised, will bear the fruits we are looking to reap: ‘between dreams and fruition, yawning gaps close’ (Darmani, ‘Scribbler’s Dream’).  Envisioning impact, defining results and strategizing how to get them will guide us to be intentional about our activities.

This was EduSpots’ first rough Theory of Change (final version soon to be formalised, and this doesn’t include full detail on impact measurement, outcomes etc ).

Remember that your ToC should first take a scribbled rough form – thinking about the process (and its assumptions) is the most important thing. 

This example theory of change is for a youth unemployment project.

Theory of change mapping outcomes

E.g  from The Girls not Brides Project – this is a complex but clear ToC

Image result for our theory of change ghana

What else will help the success of your project?

Project planning

The greatest tool for creating our impact is our project activities, which should be planned and implemented effectively. It becomes crucial then to work with the best people possible and employ quality control measures to get real about the impact we are creating or ‘signing up to create, not just what we hope will happen’ (Forti, 2012).

Solicit and sustain local support

The involvement of the target population allows us to share our dreams with the people for whom we are ‘dreaming’ and get them to dream collectively. An intervention is more likely to realise its objectives if it is fully embraced by the target population. It has been suggested that co-creating interventions with stakeholders with a deeper knowledge of the systems one seek to alter allow communities to own the change process (Moore & Evans, 2017) – you may want to involve local people in the very creation of the Theory of Change. This may help the team, stakeholders and beneficiaries to not see us as ‘the solution’ or ‘provider’ but as a catalyst working with them for results. Eroding the external look of the project deepens commitment to the initiative, decreases dependence and clarifies expectations. It also increases the skills and confidence of people and ensures sustained efforts in managing and safeguarding the intervention.

What windows of opportunity can we capitalize on?

It goes without saying that as changemakers we need to invest in building our knowledge and capacity as well. Speak to people, attend relevant training and conferences, take courses (yes we are doing this!), seek mentoring, read books and learn from other projects. In recent times, information and communication technology is speeding the global flow of information and creating a library of world knowledges (Spring, 2009).

Conclusion

In short, the ToC clarifies what one seeks to achieve, how one seeks to achieve it, what happens when it is achieved, and how those achievements will without deviation address the needs identified. Like many other organisations, EduSpots is currently reviewing our theory of change following our transition from Reading Spots, evidencing that groups and organisations need to constantly review and improve their theories and practices.

This video from Social Investment Business offers a simple explanation of the process involved in building a theory of change:

Tasks

Task 1:

EITHER: In your opinion, what do you think will be the most challenging thing to do (if any) concerning the ideas shared above?

OR: Briefly describe the Theory of Change of your own organisation, project, or an organisation you work for or know.

Task 2: Try to respond to another person’s response to task 1, attempting to offer support, agree or offer an alternative view.

Works Cited

Brennan R, Valentine D and Willis H. (2016). How to Build a Theory of Change. Know How. [Online] The National Council for Voluntary Organisations, December 7, 2016. [Cited: 02 04, 2019.] https://knowhow.ncvo.org.uk/how-to/how-to-build-a-theory-of-change/@@historyview.

Connell, J., & Kubisch, A. (1998). Applying a Theory of Change Approach to the Evaluation of Comprehensive Community Initiatives: Progress, Prospects, and Problems. Washington: The Aspen Institute.

Forti, Matthew. 2012. Six Theory of Change Pitfalls to Avoid. Stanford Social Innovation Review. [Online] Standford University, May 23, 2012. [Cited: February 3, 2020.] https://ssir.org/articles/entry/six_theory_of_change_pitfalls_to_avoid#.

Moore, G. F., & Evans, R. E. (2017). What theory, for whom and in which context? Reflections on the application of theory in the development and evaluation of complex population health. SSM – Population Health, 132.

Spring, J. (2009). Globalization of Education: An Introduction. New York: Routledge.

Weiss, C. H. (1972). Evaluation Research: Methods of Assessing Program Effectiveness. Englewood Cliffs: NJ: Prentice-Hall.

122 thoughts on Week 3 – Building a Theory of Change

  1. In ym opinion i feel theory of change its all about adopting a problem solving approach that seeks or involves the beneficiaries directly to make them appreciate and feel being a part of the solution.

    With the youth movement i volunteer with, we believe that the youth are the future leaders.
    Our approach is youth focused and geared towards making each youth the change they desire for their communities. We empower these youth in diverse ways to take action.

    1. Youth-Leadership is very important, and kudos for your impact in it.
      I was wondering how do you specifically gear the youth to become the change they want to see in the world?

      1. “Training to change the world” this is a concept i adopted from an organisation i volunteer as an associate trainer.
        It has made me realise that education willbe meaningless if attitudes are not developed to transform once way of life.
        Since i realised that all that the youth need is a training to transform their attitudes and mindset.

        So during trainings, we make participants feel the sense of urgency in addressing a problem in their society, so they end the training with a burning desire of changing something.

        I hope my explanation suits?
        Thank you

        1. Rayan. That sounds interesting. I do attest to your passion for change in your own community; I have volunteered with you at Yumzaa Foundation and met you at several volunteer grounds in Tamale. Can you give us a walk-through of how a typical session (aimed at inspiring the youth to take action) looks like? What activities are participants taken through, and how do you measure your outcomes?

          1. Thanks for ever volunteering with me.
            Some of the activities for empowering youth to be change agents includes, taking them through group formation and mobilisation, problem solving analysis and guide them to carry out an action track to demonstrate how they apply the tool used to analyse the problem in an outdoor setting.

            With this participants have a feel of a first hand experience.

        2. Hi Rayan, keep the passion up.

          You talk about how you get participants to feel the sense of urgency in addressing a problem in their society which is great.

          ToC required that we solicit for sustained local/community support. How is the relationship with your project community like? If positive, can you share some strategies you adopted?

    2. You volunteering at the youth movement is very inspiring to me. I agree when you say that the youth are the forthcoming leaders. I just want to understand how specifically you are empowering these youth “in diverse ways”. What are you doing to empower them?

  2. In my opinion i feel theory of change its all about adopting a problem solving approach that seeks or involves the beneficiaries directly to make them appreciate and feel being a part of the solution.

    With the youth movement i volunteer with, we believe that the youth are the future leaders.
    Our approach is youth focused and geared towards making each youth the change they desire for their communities. We empower these youth in diverse ways to take action.

    1. You volunteering at the youth movement is very inspiring to me. I agree when you say that the youth are the forthcoming leaders. I just want to understand how specifically you are empowering these youth “in diverse ways”. What are you doing to empower them?

      1. Thanks for asking.
        Well i do so through creating their aeareness of their potentials and how important it will help develop their surroundings.
        We train the youth in governance and volunteerism, this is all to make them realise the worth of their little efforts and how it is impactful in changing their environment.

    2. The most challenging thing to do is the idea that talked about soliciting and sustaining local support. I believe this idea is related to last weeks article, understand the problem. Before we begin to come up with Innovative solutions to problems in a specific community, we should first find the original cause of it and understand it. We have to make solutions that the community will benefit from. The solutions that they want. That they will get a chance to participate in. So if we think we are doing them a favour by not including them, the local people will not support you or your ideas even though they are beneficial.

      1. That is true. When you go to a community and start a project without the involvement of the people you are seen as the solution maker. What happens at the end of the day is that they neglect it even if it will help them because they feel it does not belong to them.
        A solution that involve the locals right from the beginning is taken more seriously by them. They work to sustain and maintain it even in your absence because they see it to be theirs.

  3. In my view, a lot of the problems in society are very interrelated and as one tries to solve one it may seem common sense to tackle another one or add more to the load. Hence resulting in blurred objectives.
    I believe a way to solve it is as one progresses with their project they should constantly be thinking how is this decision I am making directly influencing towards my goal.

    1. Exactly my thought but the existing problems also seem to emanate from so many factors.
      In solving one problem, we end up solving numerous problems because one problem leads to another.
      Staying focused on the identified problem helps a lot in the attainment of one’s goal.

    2. Well thought Sharon. I think that, sometimes the solution for one problem might actually seem to be hindering the solution-path towards another (equally improtant) problem. I am currently working on a project where I hope to develop an index to access the true impact of extensive clean energy access on hunger irradication; knowing that every land utlized for an energy project possibly displaces the agricultural utility of the land – the ‘food versus fuel conundrum.’

      But I think it is in recognition of this interrelatedness and counter-intuivity of things that the UN sets SDG 17: “Building partnerships for the goals” as a goal on its own. And this is to every body: Do you think theories of change need to make room for [relevant] partnerships and collaborations? to what extend should partnerships be allowed?

      1. In my opinion, a partnership with people or organizations with the same objective in mind is quite essential. Not only would you be tackling the problem in mind as a team but you would also have different perspectives from different people in the team on how to solve the proposed problem.
        However, I know that if both parties thoroughly discuss everything that they would like to accomplish and how specifically they would accomplish it, It will be a key step in the development of the project. Even though, As change makers, we would love to solve as much as the worlds’ problems as we possibly can, It is proven that a focused task is much better than a starting to solve many other problems.
        I understand in reality a lot of things are not black and white as they may be discussed in theory which is why I think that communication between active parties is quite important.

      2. Interesting perspective @Eliasu & Sharon.

        I agree relevant partnerships is key since the most wholistic solution can be delivered with best effort. However, the extent to which the partnership should be allowed is relative and project specific.

        ToC seem to follow some structured stages of actions. My difficulty is at what stage within the ToC line of actions should the consideration for partnership set in?

        1. I think partnerships should be in the input of the ToC because if a project is going to be ran as a partnership this entails that the communication and work is to be done together and for a smooth transition and better cooperation which intern leads to great impact I believe is crucial that both parties start together.

    3. I side with you on your thought Sharon, especially where you mentioned that, a lot of the problems are interrelated.
      That notwithstanding, I think this is the more reason we need a ToC which guides us through our approach to solving an identified problem such that we won’t lose focus on the objective.
      I personally think that, solving one problem is a step to the other problem been dealt with.
      For instance, building a community school and making it accessible to all school going age, would take children from hawking in the streets.
      This somehow, has curbed partially armed robbing on the streets.

      1. Thanks for this- I agree that sometimes it is easy for us to lose focus on the objective when we get absorbed in activities. Can you think of any examples of this?

  4. This i believe is a subtly hard thing to manage; to have a clearly defined objective and yet being open to the possibility or likelihood of redefining, restating or adjusting that goal or objective to meet the relevant needs of the target group.
    For example, my big vision is to contribute to improve young learners’ ability to read and write English by providing a library where they can have access to books to read. I however fully realize that providing a library alone may not be the ultimate solution to the problem. I may have to alongside provide a literacy intervention program where learners are introduced to basic phonetics and lessons in reading to equip them to be able to make use of a library.
    Truly, the change we aspire to is progressive and we must have a clear theory of change that points us to it yet has windows of opportunity to adjust our objectives to address the needs of our target population.

    1. Lolo Amevinya I love your point about being fflexible to change and willing to redefining your goals. Our society is not very predictable and in having a rigid mindset we might provide solutions to problems that the local people will not implement. However, where to you think is the limit for redefining goals? I wonder if one might lose focus on the initial problem and just be moved b the wind

    2. Hi Lolo! I love you idea. I have a question on how you can help the young people who come for the classes, but are mentally challenged because of the harsh times at home? Making it hard for them to concentrate.

    3. Hi Lolo, I like the fact that you quickly realized that eve though the provision of library was a problem, there was the need to address a more pressing need in order to achieve that. Sometimes to achieve certain objectives, we should have that patience to address other needs before. This will really help in making our goal achievement easier.
      I would encourage you not to overemphasize on the interim results you may be seeing but rather look at it in the bigger picture, the future and impact, and do not also forget of your initial plan. Even though there may be some adjustments.

    4. I agree with you that change has to be progressive and there must be room for adjustment in the plan for a desired change.This is because circumstances in which the change is to be implemented may change and the needs of the people may also change.

  5. In response to the first prompt,I think a concept I would find difficult to adopt is fully engaging all beneficiaries of the project as there is reluctance from people to work for change. This is mainly because the people who have done things for the community have never taken the approach of involving the community. They sort of bring their ideas as solutions that should be implemented and not ideas that we should all work towards. Therefore I anticipate that this new approach will need me to be very committed in making sure everyone is involved.

    1. Hi Agness, yes ingaging the stakeholders into ToC may sometimes be unrealistically possible, as most of them are reluctant for change. But don’t you think that is a problem arising from their mental adjustment, positioning their thinking to accept the possibility of the change?

      1. My point dwelt more on making the ToC with the members of the community themselves. I think actually involving them would be sort of a challenge. However, I’m planning on calling some sort of meeting or gathering where many members of the community will meet with me and we will hold a discussion. I will wait for them to make suggestions of solving the problem before I give my idea. So I think changing their mindsets will be done by educating them and from the start of the project you need to tell them what is expected of them if the project is t work.

        1. I agree that engaging communities may be challenging as they are not used to that. I am at also excited that with your efforts this is going to change and other initiatives will learn from your approach of putting the community at the centre.

          I like the idea of having a meeting with community members. You may wish to meet prominent or influential voices in the community one-on-one before having a general gathering as this may prove helpful in influencing the people. Such meetings will also amplify the interest of the community and what they are likely to support or contribute.

          I am curious about why our communities do not get much involved. Do you think it is because they do not care enough about educational projects or the they are detached as a result of being continuously sidelined, or maybe both?

          1. Thank you very much for the suggestions! I will make sure to try and meet as many prominent people as possible.
            I think they are not involved in solving their own issues because of their mindset. This mindset is built from the constant repetition of how projects are implemented. Also as you mentioned always being sidelined. It is in our minds that a specific kind of people can make change. people like those who are rich or those who are privileged in ways others are not.

          2. Hello Steven,
            Concerning why our communities do not get much involved in educational projects, i think it because they are continuously sidelined and most communities are very concern with educational projects but just need someone to lead and they will collaborate to bring it to solution.

    2. @Agness, l do agree soliciting for sustained local/stakeholders support can be very challenging. I think it becomes more difficult when the impactful activities been pushed is foreign to their existing way of life or only beneficial to some selected group or taking power from certain group of people.

      That is why a wholistic approach is required. The relevance of the intended results of the ToC is key and must acceptable to majority within the targeted audience as such. Also community entry through key influential people is mostly helpful.

      1. Wow I think it’s very true when you say it’s hard when it takes power from other people. How can we involve those powers so that they don’t feel we are trying to take power from them.

        1. You need to identify these group of people (if any) and try to get their perspective on the issue. You then build on their approach if it makes sense and align with your intended TOC. If not, introduced your model and ensure their participation throughout the process.

  6. In my own opinion,theory of change is adopting a way in which you can transform your project from low level to a higher level that will fully meet the needs of the community especially the youth in the community.
    The most challenging thing to do is what is consider when building a theory of change. You may consider some things to be implemented but those things needed may not be found in your community….

    1. Hi Kofi, I understand the challenge of resources in some communities. In reference to brainstorming and writing a ToC, can you think of anything you may need that is not available in the community?

    2. Hello Kofi,
      In addition, I think that focusing on Available resources to solve other problems could be viable.
      Also, some resources can be built in the community and some can be swapped with other traditional supplements.
      I wish you could give a specific example so that I could imagine you project and give specific feedback.

      1. To build up a theory that will transform your community through education and in my community we lack so many educational tools like STEM tools that the students may be able to see and identity when ever they come across it

  7. It is a common dilemma in Africa, communities, compounds, cities and towns all through to the central business districts, to build a strategy that can bring the results we envision on the table. From the article, the most probable strategy will mainly have to center around developing peoples knowledge, skills and mindsets through education, introducing policies and practices to influence how things are done, providing resources where needed, employing communication and advocacy, building relationships, among others. And I think preparing people’s thinking or shaping their knowledge for the primary goal will be quite hard. For instance in Zambia, the more devastating problem, that even the government is striving so hard to solve, is that of quality and sustainable control of waste. Without getting the actual education into their heads, children whose homes and families are part of the target population, attend school on a daily basis thus, city littering still hasn’t shown an end point. Policies have been set up – peharps not strongly implemented, sensitising writings are engraved nearly on all formal institutions, cabbage trucks are ever ever loaded as they pass through shanty compounds; symbolizing that waste is ever accumulating. In some compounds, buried plastics are always peeping as you walk through the premises. Maybe our stragetic platforms are not good enough, but all in all, I think building that strategy, to fill the gap between dreams and fruition, need to attach itself to the previous blog, ‘understanding the problem’.

    1. Hi Edwin, is good you’ve identified that redirecting people thinking and existing knowledge will be quite difficult. I am particularly happy that you’ve outlined the various challenges hindering the government’s efforts in ensuring effective waste control in Zambia.

      ToC as been discussed is calling for a new approach from the status quo. Sometimes it calls for a paradigm shift to tackle existing problem.

      What new steps can the government of Zambia take? What simple ways can we get people to reason with us in causing the change we want to see?

      1. Perhaps, the government has to revaluate its education system, in making people realize and know why they are getting the education, not just for jobs. I think its easier to get into peoples’ heads while they are in school.

    1. At times what one needs to execute a project is to involve other people who will be interested in it.
      Also, also when a project is feasible and works towards a key problem the community and stakeholders help with it especially when they are involved in it.

  8. To me,a theory of change shows how you expect outcomes to occur over the short, medium and longer term as a result of your work. It can be represented in a visual diagram, as a narrative, or both. A theory of change can be developed at the beginning of a piece of work (to help with planning), or to describe an existing piece of work (so you can evaluate it). It is particularly helpful if you are planning or evaluating a complex initiative, but can also be used for more straightforward projects. It is beneficial to involve a variety of stakeholders when you develop a theory of change – you could include staff, trustees, beneficiaries, partners and funders.
    From the explanation of theory of change, what I see very challenging will be how to solicit and sustain local support
    With may project, I’m planning of calling all stakeholders to a meeting for us all to take a decision together and the way forward but I don’t know whether that will work

    1. Hi Emmanual,
      You are not the only who believes attracting community support may be challenging. I am tempted to think that some community members may have become used to some problems over time and so do not see it as serious as we do.

      I am however positive that people like the assembly members, local committee and religious heads etc may identify with the problem and will be happy to play a role. As you said, we can start by meeting with them. From my experience, having good relationships with some members of the community allows you to share ideas and learn about their perspective. Such relationships can be helpful when you need to engage other members of the community.

      Is there anyone else in the community who sees the problem you see? In case this is not your community, what can you do to get closer to the community before you start a project?

      1. Thank you Steven for the contribution. I am currently building good relationship with major stakeholders of the community by paying them visits and discussing matters of the school and the community and asking for their views, ideas, and advice on matters of community.
        Some of these stakeholders including the chief, chief Imam PTA chairman, SMC chairman, Assembly man and others

  9. I think the biggest challenge would be having individuals that share common interests, goals, willingness, motives or intention.Because of survival issues,most people would rather invest their time and effort in projects to sustain themselves or their families than simply help others.Added is ignorance.However, barriers such as language, values or beliefs require a proper teaching methodology to attract the interest or understanding of the targeted group.Failure to consider this would result in a very small or no change at all.

    1. Hi Andrews, I believe that at times people may seem not to be bordered about some problems because they do not have knowledge of its impact.
      All that people like these need is a little education to make them aware. Therefore instead of focusing only on those interested in it, the others could also be educated about it.

    2. Hi Andrew. I wonder if you have any advice for what to do when people’s intentions differ? Or is there a way to combine individualism with collective action?

    3. Hi Andrew, I agree with your idea that a shared goal is important. However, I believe that sometimes things can work really well even if people’s intentions and views differ, as long as we could embrace the diversity. But I agree that in all cases, shared core values and goals are crucial.

  10. Hi Andrew,
    It is sad the growing indifference among people from different societies. This may be due to a difference in values and beliefs, etc. and breakdown of communal living.

    I am thinking of the way forward. I want to believe in every society we will find few people who are willing and committed to taking action. Our task will be to identify such people and work with them as a start. Like you indicated, education may help to change the attitude of people.

    Is there a way we can get people who just do not care to begin to care?

    1. Hello Stephen,
      Thank for your response!.it’s sad to learn how values and beliefs hinder our action towards addressing social challenges.But, think of you and I for instance.we’ve been made to be aware or understand our social responsibilities through education.May we can use that to push people into action.

      1. I agree on using education to shape values and mindset, Andrew. Giving empathy more space in our classrooms, youth group and religious meetings could make the young and old care more about animals, the environment and other people.

  11. I personally think that concerning any design for a ToC, critically analyzing the situation and knowing the specific problem at hand, the need for a change and the consequences of this change is very key and foremost.
    Secondly, having a critical study and interviewing the possible beneficiaries or victims of this change is also a main key.
    Once we have these solid points on a paper, we can go on to study the solution methods and how each of them will impact our lives in order to come out with the best possible results based on our preferences and that of the people. We should also have a fair knowledge about the possible problems (if any) this results may lead to and also put into consideration measures to solve them.
    This however needs time to bring us the best possible solution and so we should invest a lot of resources to see that dream come by. As the article said, it has to always start with a rough work.
    Thank you.

  12. In my opinion, the theory of change is adopting problem solving techniques, being able to sell it out to the right people which I call the “change drivers” and working together to achieve the desired change.
    Many are times where various
    appropriate change techniques are adopted to solve a particular problem but due to the lack of the right “change drivers”, the result is not yield.
    Eduspot I believe wouldn’t have been where it is now if it was without these “positive change drivers”.
    I highly agree with the why and how an initiative works, but with the right positive “change drivers” the results are always massive.

    1. Hey Ishaq Sumaila, I’m really interested in whom you’re referring to as change drivers. Is it the community or the people who are the leaders of the project?

      1. Hi Agnes,
        The “change drivers” are the people within the community who possess all the skills needed for growth, development, shares the same objectives and are ever ready and willing to make the desired change.
        They can also be individuals from outside the community. These change drivers have growth mindset and the right positive attitudes towards making a change. They believe change takes time and so they work assiduously to see that desired change irrespective of the challenges.
        And lastly they are passionate about achieving a positive result no matter how small or little.

  13. I will highlight on the Theory of Change of Everyday People Ghana (formerly Lattitute ICS Ghana Alumni). A youth led social development group.

    It started as an alumni group of returned volunteers of a UK government project dabbed ICS led by Lattitude Global Volunteering (LGV) as implementing agency.

    An unfortunate event occurred and LGV agency certificate was withdrawn. This means no continuation of cycle of volunteers to add up to the existing alumni group and hence no external support for alumni activities.

    However, the group remain focus on its overall goal of “building active global citizens” hence we adopted a ToC of institutionalizing the group. As part of the ToC strategy, we change the name of the group, got it registered, drafted a solid constitution and operational framework, and entered into various partnership arrangements with other charity organizations. By so doing we have remained relevant within the social space, keeping track of our members development and delivering projects.

    I must say that soliciting for local support for various projects/programs initiatives has been very difficult. But what help in most instances was getting to the people through key leaders and influential people .

    1. Thanks for sharing Eric and I am glad to be working directly with you in enhancing the activities of Everyday People GH. You have been a backbone and played a massive role in the successes of the group. Keep it up!

  14. Hello all,
    I think for me, the most challenging part about building a STEM careers guidance center will be getting the people in the community actively involved in it. People are so inclined to the traditional careers that they are already so farmiliar with and might not see the importance of fussing so much about a different career path. However, I am optimistic that with due time, and with effective communication, people, especially the youths will begin to see that STEM is an integral part of the development of the nation.

    1. Hi Kasonde, I reckon there are conservatives in our community and generally people feel safer with the norm. It is good to notice these challenges because it helps us think about how to address them.

      Sometimes, the lack of information or opportunities in some fields leave people with limited choices. In my community for example, most females studying science want to become nurses because that is the most popular option for female science students.

      However, STEM/STEAM is becoming increasingly popular and there are much more opportunities in these field as compared to others. I’m optimistic young people will find careers in these fields worth pursuing if they are exposed to credible information. You will be a good example to them and the post on communication and advocacy later in this course may be helpful. I’m interested in what the popular career choices in your community are.

  15. This Theory of Change has improved my understanding of how things work especially for some organisations like mine. It is all about getting those who value your values or those who can also make an impact by way of influencing others.
    For instance, I think the following theory of change process is what my organisations considers:
    1. resources or inputs- things including human power that are put together to support work such as education. Theses are the fuel for everything.
    2. Activities- training, workshops, seminars, and personnel carrying out activities.
    3. Outputs- this is the interim results from the organisation’s activities such improvements in workers efficiency, positives mindsets, attitudes.
    4. Outcomes- the results of the workers efforts such as the effects teachers have on students, their mindsets and performance
    5. Impacts- what positive effect we seek to see in the future lives of the workers, students, communities, etc
    6. Sustainability- this impact should be a continuous one so us to realize the long term vision.

    1. Very well said Tuarik.

      Theories of Change or better still the Change these theories bring must be sustainable..
      After project leaders have packed and left, the change should still be visible.

  16. I have learned a lot here.
    Thanks to everyone for sharing your knowledge and experience with us concerning this Toc. But I think that, in as much as we adopt to theories of change in other to achieve success in our projects we have to have it in mind that some of these Toc’s may divert our objectives and goals as change makers because of the many views and opinions from different people. So my point is, any suggestions made with regards to the Toc should be thoroughly discussed to the end to see the feasibility of that suggested point in the achievement of the set goals of the project before being considered.

  17. I strongly believe that, theory of change is the best paradigm in the life of a changemaker.
    I keep wondering how a problem can best be solved or dealt with without a clear ToC.
    In my opinion and likely the opinion of many changemakers, problem solving without a clear approach is the biggest failure and even to some extent an addition to the existing problem.
    Albert Einstein said,”If a had an hour to solve a problem, I will spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem, and 5 minutes thinking about the solution”.
    This affirms that, a clear understanding of the problem and finding the appropriate theory of change, is the best way forward.
    For instance, in my community or locality, I’ve identified that building a library will be a huge step in breaking the learning deficit amongst students.
    Learners needs to be empowered through reading and research works.
    In this instance, I’ve triggered several conversations with the opinion leaders and various stakeholders who matters when it comes to education in the community.
    I have also been engaging the targeted group so that we can all share the burden of needs.
    We estimate that, later this year or early next year, we should have a community library to help deal with learning or reading deficit amongst students.
    Changemakers should also in a way try to be firm and not be swayed from their objectives because of the varying views others or groups will be sharing.
    Even though, your objective should always be intact, that notwithstanding, a changemaker must be flexible in tolerating varying opinions.
    This helps in shaping the course of approach.

  18. Agripah Opoku from North Suntreso,Kumasi-Ghana.

    I strongly believe that, theory of change is the best paradigm in the life of a changemaker.
    I keep wondering how a problem can best be solved or dealt with without a clear ToC.
    In my opinion and likely the opinion of many changemakers, problem solving without a clear approach is the biggest failure and even to some extent an addition to the existing problem.
    Albert Einstein said,”If a had an hour to solve a problem, I will spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem, and 5 minutes thinking about the solution”.
    This affirms that, a clear understanding of the problem and finding the appropriate theory of change, is the best way forward.
    For instance, in my community or locality, I’ve identified that building a library will be a huge step in breaking the learning deficit amongst students.
    Learners needs to be empowered through reading and research works.
    In this instance, I’ve triggered several conversations with the opinion leaders and various stakeholders who matters when it comes to education in the community.
    I have also been engaging the targeted group so that we can all share the burden of needs.
    We estimate that, later this year or early next year, we should have a community library to help deal with learning or reading deficit amongst students.
    Changemakers should also in a way try to be firm and not be swayed from their objectives because of the varying views others or groups will be sharing.
    Even though, your objective should always be intact, that notwithstanding, a changemaker must be flexible in tolerating varying opinions.
    This helps in shaping the course of approach.

    1. Thanks for sharing with us Agripah. Regarding creating a theory of change for your library project based on ideas shared above, what do you think may be the most difficult thing to accomplish?

      1. Thank you Steven for appreciating my thoughts.
        The one thing that may be challenging, would be the deterioration of the identified structure for the said project.
        The structure had been allocated as a resource centre for the period it was built.
        It’s unfortunate, it has existed not to serve its purpose.
        I thought it prudent as the community leader to give it a meaningful usage.
        Renovating the structure for the purpose of a library, promises to be very herculean and challenging but I’m determined to overcome.

  19. I think a theory of change is important because it acts as a map and it covers everything you need to achieve your goal. I personally feel that the challenging part is the activities. This is because if we involve the target group, it might be difficult to coordinate people with different personalities into doing a common activity.

  20. You see! I agree with you; you are doing a lot to ensure you get a multitude of the community on the project. But implementing solutions to matters affecting society and designing a route showing steps by which you want to achieve the goal, isn’t necessarily the biggest deal. It becomes challenging if the theory of change is being imposed on you by the funders. Reality in society is far away from the theory and it takes a certain amount of socialisation with the community to understand and enforce projects successfully.
    The ignorance of people on the project can often determine a project’s success or failure as a project needs their support. If the people carrying out the projects cannot speak the local languages or learn to get along with them, then disseminating information to sensitise people becomes the challenge. For example, in my country Zambia, we have 72 languages. I am Namwanga and it is very difficult to establish a project in another land of a particular tribe.

  21. The theory of change of the Precious Inspire Organization’s reading clinic looks at the fact that if children are taught to read accurately at the basic levels of education, higher institutions will be provided with more competent and cognitive minds thereby leading to a general improvement in output of these institutions.

  22. My take on the Theory of Change is Remaining focus in ones quest to solve the problem but using different and divert ways which meets the right needs of the beneficiary.

    For TechNeGgh, we aim at solving the Technological Hunger of the youth today by providing IT training and mentor-ship for them,

    1. Hi Wilson, great to hear about TechNeGgh. What stage in your ToC seem most challenging and what strategies did you deploy to normalize it?

  23. The ideas above on Theory of Change are great, these are easily achieved when the stakeholders involve know what is at stake. By this I mean the mindset of those involved.
    The challenging thing about a Theory of Change is when the problem is not seen as a problem. This slows down the execution of the plan.
    In most cases what can be done about this will be to educate the community on the problem. Give them reasons why that thing is a problem and show them the intended result of working together to make things better.
    For example: if the parents, community members and chiefs are not educated on why child marriages must be stopped, the training, mentorship program and other things may be done but the people will go back to their old ways.
    I therefore believe that ‘theory of change’ is about identifying a problem, researching to know everything about the problem, engaging the community involved to find out more about it and generate solutions.
    Plan effectively towards these solutions, engage and educate the community. Get the resources and personnel needed and execute effectively with all stakeholders involved.

    1. I agree with you Dorcas.

      Perspective goes a long way.

      If these community people do not see the problem as a problem you’ll be surprised how hard they’ll fight you and your ‘so called change’.

      Getting them to see and own the problem makes the work way easier.

      1. I wonder who determines what is seen as ‘the problem’ in the first place? Sometimes individuals from outside a community come into the community and see things as a problem because things are done differently. But it doesn’t necessarily make one way right and another wrong. For example, in a community I stayed with in Thailand most families lived in wooden houses built on stilts. People from the outside came and thought this was a problem (thinking that it would be better to build brick houses). Some brick houses were built, but because they could not be built on stilts they got flooded. Therefore the way the community did it was adapted to their environment. But those who came in from outside saw it as a problem because all of their homes were built out of brick.

        1. Helen, you are making a very emphatic point. The decision as to what actually is a problem, who determines it and whether it is true the identified is a problem can become easier if it comes from the people or group involved. Its very true and important not to make assumptions for them.

  24. I also think the most difficult thing probably will be soliciting and sustaining local support.This can happen when community members someway somehow do not see the problem as a problem.
    It can happen that in the initial stages of a project community members are all excited and interested in it but after a little fan fare when it is time to put in the work some people turn to hold back.

    In my undergraduate final year I worked on a reading clinic in the Volta region to sensitize the community on the importance of a reading culture.The community had a library that was full furnished but was underutilized. I met and had discussions teachers, community members and leaders as well.

    In the first few weeks of my interaction with students everything was great, after a while students began to miss sessions because their parents always had other things for them to do.. These same parents that were so excited and asked their children to sign up.

    1. Hi Emefa, am excited about your involvement in the reading clinic. Was wondering if you took time find out why the parents lost interest in their ward’s participation. Also was the timing for the sessions set with due consideration some of those factors?

  25. I believe that from the ideas shared above the most challenging one is definitely identifying the big picture as well as the aim of your project. It is by far the hardest to make an idea into reality. It takes a lot of planning, work and discipline. Most projects also require collaborative work which could be difficult as convincing people to join a project is another challenge. This is also true for gaining and/or maintaining local support as without a clear idea and a way of executing that idea, chances are that the locals would not support you. This is because the execution would sound to vague or confusing.
    Moreover, even if the idea and execution are well-planned, the locals might still not support you for other reasons such as their inability to identify an actual problem (if it is something not very apparent). In these cases you need to popularise the problem before suggesting any solutions in order for people to become more accepting of it.

    Therefore, before officially starting a project you need to consider whether the local community is aware of its existence and ready to hear out solutions as well as having a credible plan for your solution.

    1. Exactly the point Alexandar.
      That has mostly been very challenging in the communities and as a result, a lot of projects have achieved very less or nothing at all in their objectives.

    2. Thank you for this perspective Alexander.
      How do you then suggest we get buy in from the local community? Also I wonder, if the problem you are tackling is not identified as a problem by the community should it be a priority? Could you perhaps give an example?

      1. Hi Helen and thank you for the question.
        It is important to note that communities have different mindsets and people have different priorities. If, for example, you are tackling poor education in a rural community, you could find yourself in disagreement with the locals that decent education is the best way for the children in this community to thrive in future and truly unlock their potential. In such a case you should not give up trying to persuade them otherwise. Moreover, make sure that you are not alone in your persuasion as one person alone is easily disregarded by the many and it also adds to the credibility of your project.
        Finally, it is important to have patience and listen when dealing with local people as sometimes they would have very valid reasons as to why they disapprove or are unable to support you. This would enable you to understand how the people think and whether the problem you are trying to solve is worth addressing. I would definitely advise against imposition of ideas as it would most likely backfire. Therefore, identify whether the community experiences a problem and start considering solutions when you have some gained some support.
        I hope my opinion was was helpful!

  26. Thanks for such an insightful session on Theory of Change.

    I truly agree with the part of the article which states that; as change makers we need to invest in building our knowledge base and capacity. This is because, we can’t give what we do not have. Personally, I like to focus on problems that I am passionate about and have the knowledge and skills to solve. In situations where I don’t not have the requisite knowledge, I try to research and engage others who are more skilled or knowledgeable in that area. It is therefore prudent to identify a team that can help you achieve the desired goals of your project.

    It is sometimes difficult to get the right people or team to work with, as we all have different interests and passion. Some people may show some levels of commitment from the beginning but may not keep up when the project Lead or visionary is not around. Others may also join for their personal gains.

    My question to anyone reading is how do you identify the right people or team members to work with? What will be your criteria for selection?

    1. This is for everyone else here. The most important secrete to success for this generation of ours is network. Your ability to network among people and most importantly your ability to unlock value in that network is the best way to get the right people for the right project. We have friends who are friends to other people that we do not know, so I think it is just a matter of contacting the people you know and explaining to them the kind of project you want carry on and the kind of people you want to support in that and believe you me they can link you up with people that have the same or even more passion for what you want to do. I also want to add that in other for us to have a meaningful friendship we should be able to unlock value in that friendship by asking to know what your friends can do and what they can’t do. What they are passionate about and how they see the world. This is the way I think we can be more useful and benefiting to one another because if you look among your friends you realize they are a great number of them that you don’t know what they can do for you or what they do for themselves and so you are likely to live with friends that are very capable of helping you in a situation that you are suffering in just because you don’t know the value of those friends.

      This is a personal experience with me about our in ability to unlock value in our friendships that I will like to share with you and you could be a victim to that too. I became friends with a guy as a result of my regular purchase of his products as a customer, unfortunately I have never told this guy about what I also sell and we’ve been there together for two years. One day I brought him some of the products I also sell as a gift and to my surprise he told me how people always worry him about my products I sell at a price that is not worth it just because I have very few people to sell to. I quickly stopped him on the argument on who to blame and we started making calls to some of the people he promised to inform any time he gets that products and they started to make reservations for my products. As I tell you now I have made almost my previous annual income within two months now working with him. I guess you can imagine how much I would have made if we had unlock value on our first meeting. Thank you.

      1. Hello Ahmed,

        Thanks for sharing this important truth and experience with us. I have taken a clue and hope to take advantage of my networks.

      2. Hello Ahmed thanks for your advice i loved it but i want to suggest something.
        In as much as our friends have friends ,i feel when it comes to driving people towards what you want to achieve,you are the best person to explain. If those friends get their friends for you ,it up to you to convince them and not the other way round.

  27. Soliciting and sustaining community support is one factor I think is difficult to handle.

    When the community members do not regard the problem you working on with them as so much of a problem especially when it is one intervention that doesn’t give them money in the short term .

    1. In response to this, I wonder how you might include the community in the development of the Theory of Change to make sure that there is local buy in?

  28. I searched for the meaning of the word theory itself and this was the result “a set of principles on which the practice of an activity is based”
    Adding “of change ” means a set of principles on which the practice of an activity is based to make a difference in the lives of concerned individuals. This means that one must have a step by step plan to carry on any idea and the ability to foresee the impact that can be made. You should also have a backup plan just incase things doesn’t work out the way you want them to. In drawing the theory of change, regardless of how well one thinks he or he is efficient, there should be great pillars as in individuals and supporters to hold on to the great ideas to be implemented.
    The eduspot approach of not leaving everything in the hands of one individual but making everything a collaborative work is a good example.
    In summary, we need the plan itself, a backup plan and pillars(people to support) in building our theory of change

  29. My project is intended to achieve increased awareness and concern about human rights.
    To achieve this objective, I have identified programmes some of which are as follows.
    Human Rights Education,
    Human Rights Campaign and Advocacy, Education and Training for Social and Economic Stability.
    It is believed that, when the level of awareness and concern about human rights and related issues rises, various forms of abuse will reduce. For example, there will be equal access to quality and affordable education, transparency and accountability will increase as the people know their rights and demand them from their leaders.There will be equitable distribution of resources, facilities etc. Unemployment will reduce as majority of the people are educated and have employable skills.
    Finally, high level of poverty and social vices will be replaced by high percentages of economic , social and moral stability which will automatically impact on national development.

  30. Theory of change is essentially the comprehensive description and illustration of how and why a desire change is expected to happen in a particular context.
    Which portrays how long term goals are actualised to meet the desired outcome or to influence the targeted group positively.
    With regards to this, my initiative “Writing books to impact the youth at our spot” is what I have envision to achieve. But with this, as theory of change is concern I am not just writing any book but something that will really change their mindsets to become what they ought to be. Theory of change is a process and with that, interventions will be initiated to help them grasp the impact of the project. There will be challenges but as a risk taker, the change I forecast shall be instilled in them. Thank you.

  31. A challenging thing to do concerning the ideas shared above will be how to get the targeted group to see you as a catalyst and not the solution to their problem.

    Again my Organisation have a vision that one day ALL children in Ghana will have access to quality education. Our ToC is about placing solution driven individuals with a strong passion for change in identified communities. They are to interact , identify and analyze the most urgent problems relating to education whiles working with the community to bring up a solution that will have a long term effect .We believe it will take time ,slowly but surely we will get there.

  32. The ToC Is a great way to follow and get things effectively. The most challenging thing to do will be getting the results. You can put all things together but getting the people to believe they need the project and see you as a catalyst may not provide you the needed results.

  33. The ToC gives one a template to work with.
    It’s like what we call backward planning in education.
    ToC helps one to see and clearly express the end of your project from the beginning.
    It helps to already envisage. So one knows what to expect, and what to avoid.

  34. I think the most challenging thing about the theory of change is finding or sustaining the commitment of dedicated community members to volunteer for the project. Some people will participate in the activities in anticipation of financial or other personal benefits and may relax if they do not meet those selfish interest. Using our temporal library as a case. After we discussed the project with the teachers, some showed genuine interest by helping us get rafia sticks to build benches, and shelves. Although some teacher use the place for outdoor teaching activities which is great. On the other hand, we would have preferred they are more engage in assisting students to read.

    1. That’s very true Bashiru, sustaining interest and involvement can be really difficult. It’s all high in the beginning but volunteers can mostly come with their own expectations.

  35. In my opinion, soliciting local support can be a pretty difficult thing to do. Especially in settings where the people have a dependency mindset. They feel reluctant to play active roles in a project or theory of change largely because they feel there’s a provider.

  36. From all that I have read, I get the thought that; ToC is about testing and challenging the status-quo, and where appropriate suggest and implement innovative ideas that are diversely inclusive in solving a problem or improving a situation.
    In Ghana, most craft-men aren’t paid well for their work; and I have started a venture to get good deals worth their time energy and effort.

  37. The most difficult thing I will face in this case is “Planning a successful Theory of Change”. So the key issue here is planning successfully, because the beginning of everything gives a leeway for the participants to project into its future as to whether they will still be willling to be in or withdraw. i.e. if things become flourishiong and assuring, they surely will put all their efforts in it, otherwise they turn back.
    The KNUST Peer Counselling (KPC) is an orgainsation I work with voluntarily, they are several couselling services undertaken by this non-profitable organisation. But along the way, to make it more interesting, the activities of the organisation were broadened beyond couselling acivities. Entertainments, aerobics, socialisation among others. This was because we realised that was the way to capture the interest of the student body; therefore we will be able to benefit with counselling while they came in the name of the something else. Because of this, we were able to get more students volunteerig as peer counsellors and the number of students who patronise our activities skyrocketed.

  38. This session is very insightful!
    ToC was made very simple and easy to understand.

    I think what would be difficult to do would be involving the relevant stakeholders in developing the ToC. Keeping them interested and soliciting ideas from them will require finesse and patience.
    Thank you.

    1. Very well said Hikma.

      Once the various stakeholders come on board with their ideas, and are not made to feel they are left out, it makes the work more easier and successful.

  39. Hello,

    The most challenging thing to do in the procedure under the theory of change is the aspect of soliciting funds to carry out the planned activities(this is to a larger extent based on my project).

    My project is aimed towards aiding brilliant but needy students in my area to attain higher levels of education and encouraging the weak ones to also aim higher. This can be done through awarding scholarships to brilliant, but needy students to ensure that their dreams are not shattered. These groups of people would also be mentored by responsible and well-educated people(undergraduates and graduates) to ensure that they are on track. The reason being that, in Asawase about 96% of parents know not much on tertiary education and are therefore not concerned about what’s going on in the world, especially in the STEM related courses: Majority are only concerned about health and want their wards to be workers in health, police, military, banking, and other social science related jobs.

    Not only would my project be aimed solely on higher education, but also on self-development, sustaining our environment and laying emphasis on entrepreneurship(innovation and developing already existing jobs).

    Soliciting funds for scholarships on behalf of a relatively large number of people(about 40) is indeed a hard nut to crack. Although, I would also be guiding others to apply for existing scholarships for education which would be published by the Scholarship Secretariat and those on other sites. To be frank, I come from a very low-income home and couldn’t have come this far if God hasn’t used people to avail these scholarships and guide me in their application.

    Thank you.

  40. Understanding situation at hand and setting or mapping strategy to fix it, how to start, where to start, who to work with, what to use, life spans, life after,

  41. My team and I together with the school management and community leaders saw the need to provide an ICT lab and library for the school.
    We believe the Library will boost the English Language speaking, writing and reading skills of our students, while exposing them to a wide range of reading materials. It will also serve as a source of information for the varied subject areas they are taught.
    The ICT lab on the other will make our students technologically inclined. It will give them the opportunity to have first-hand experience in the use of computers. The computers will also serve as source of information via the internet.
    Academically, we are of great conviction that, their end of term, end of year and national examination results will improve. We believe this project will increase performances, while enabling our students to be well resourced like their fellows in the urban areas.

  42. I think two things are difficult here.

    One, it’s difficult to identify the problem, as explored in the previous post.

    Two, it’s difficult to identify the solution that’s most apt to the circumstances. This was already explained in the post, but here’s my understanding of this problem. In my opinion it’s difficult to understand that others may not have the same response as you, and it’s also much easier to generalise for efficacy. I would argue however that this is not the optimal approach and if we want sustainable, long-term solutions, we need to be looking at what’s most relevant and will be most helpful for the people who’re actually interacting with our solution.

  43. I think the most challenging thing about the Theory of Change is firstly to reach shared opinions in a group of people with different cultural backgrounds and values. Different people can hold different opinions on what makes a problem and what needs to be changed, so having a shared goal is the first step.

    After a common view is reached, the next challenge is to actually get people involved. Although we could easily get volunteers in some projects, funding is also important for making all changes. Given that government fundings are often hard to get, alternative ways should also be considered.

  44. I think that one of the most challenging things to do is to plan the project and to identify what is needed and build a strategy to fill the gap.
    Project planning sometimes can prove difficult when in a group, and this is where teamwork and cooperation comes into play. To implement project activities correctly, the team needs to reach the same conclusion that they agree will be unsustainable and effective. Different opinions and values are what hols trams back from creating this conclusion instantly, but he same passions and intentions are what helps. Secondly, identifying the strategy sometimes is held back by the same problems, but also external factors during the project. As a team, these should all be able to be overcome with teamwork and motivation.

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