It’s hard to plan a journey unless you have some idea of where you are going and what route you’re going to take to get there. When your journey involves creating some kind of social change or transformation then a map is imperative (if only to stop you paddling in circles).
Theory of Change is an excellent mapping tool. We use it to help our groups articulate their vision and to plan the pathway of change that’s going to get them there. It’s particularly helpful for us to use the theories of change to build a picture of how each of the funded activities link to our own CEC theory of change.
On the internet are a range of resources that will help you create a theory of change. We’ve also learned a few things whilst developing our theories of change that we thought would be worth sharing:
1.There isn’t a one size fits all model. Early on, we imagined that we would create one template, and fit the different theories of change into that. If only it were that easy. What we found along the way is that as each group is different, so are their theories of change – not only in what they look like but in how different people approach them and the different things they want to pay attention to.
2. If it looks good, chances are it will make it to the wall. The best place for a Theory of Change is the wall – preferably one that lots of people walk past or look at. Being on the wall gives everyone a constant reminder of where it is they’re supposed to be heading and helps keep a tight focus on the vision and outcomes.
3.Sometimes it’s easier to have no process. There are a lot of resources out there to help create a theory of change, but we found the easiest process was to simply ask two questions*, and then to write furiously while they were answered. Once that was done, together we organised the outcomes into time frames and then agreed on what it might look like.
4.Our projects are developmental, and their theories of change might adapt in response to learning and priorities. And we’re OK with that.
Introducing our theories of change
Each of our groups has their own theory of change. Whilst they look different, what they all have in common is a pathway of change from the beginning or initial stages of the project to a 20 year vision.
Overall CEC theory of change Vision: To disrupt disadvantage, leading to a more just and equitable society
The focus of the CEC theory of change is on how our activities and behaviours impact systems-level outcomes by using a series of statements that outline behaviours (“if we”), activities (“by”) and outcomes (“then”). Statements are arranged around six areas of focus that the committee believes make the greatest contribution to the provision of relevant, positive and quality education in communities.
Overall CEC theory of change
Te Hā o Mātauranga, Learning in Kaikōura Vision: Our community having the skills and choices to live the life they want
This theory of change presents the short, medium and long term outcomes as a series of interconnected stepping stones, which are supported by ways of working (‘we will do this by’, ‘this will lead to’) and “how” statements. All this is guided by the vision.
Te Hā o Mātauranga, Learning in Kaikōura theory of change
Ranui Action Project Vision: Reduce disadvantage leading to a more just and equitable society
The Ranui theory of change is separated into four pathways: Cultural identity; relationships and connections; skills and knowledge and contribution. Outcomes for each pathway are organised into time frames (short – medium – long term), and the arrows are used to show how these are interconnected. Incidentally, Ranui chose to adopt the vision of the JR McKenzie Trust as their own vision.
Ranui theory of change
Muaūpoko Tribal Authority Vision: Tamariki and Rangatahi who are well supported and strong in their Muaūpoko identity
This simple theory of change uses an “if, then” series of outcomes to show how each outcome builds on the next. A logic model sits in behind the theory of change which details the inputs, activities, and outputs.
Whanganui Learning Centre Vision is at the centre. A emphasis on ground-up and developmental ways of working is echoed by the flow of the changes (from the outside in). Considers how the project influences outcomes at the individual, local and national levels. Note that this theory of change is still under development as the Learning Centre have taken it back to their community for feedback.
*The two basic questions we use are: 1. Let's imagine that in 20 years time you are sitting on a chair on your front porch looking out over your community, feeling very happy and proud about what you are looking at. What does that look like? What are your the people doing? How are they feeling? 2. What needed to change between now and then to make that happen?