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Theory of Change

Theory of Change (ToC) outlines causal linkages in an initiative to explain your institution’s intended path to impact (i.e., its shorter-term, intermediate, and long-term outcomes). The identified changes are represented by an “outcome map,” which depicts the logical relationship and chronological flow of long-term outcomes along the path to the desired impact. The connections between desired outcomes are explained by “rationales,” which are statements that explain why one outcome is thought to be a prerequisite for another and can be updated based on evaluation evidence.

It has been assumed, for example, that improving children’s educational long-term outcomes in a region will lead to the community’s ability to adapt to new agricultural practices when these children reach adulthood, thereby increasing mint yield.

This assumes that the kids will stay in the area and work on farms. What if an unintended consequence of improved education was that these young adults were drawn to higher-paying jobs in cities, depriving the farming community of labor and skills?

By developing this project’s theory of change, we clarify the underlying assumptions and know what supporting evidence to seek at each stage to ensure that the project is on track to deliver the desired long-term outcome and performance assessment.

The Theory of Change and the Impact Management Project’s 5 Dimensions of Impact are currently the two most widely accepted and used frameworks for documenting your impact measurement and management strategy. It is frequently advised social enterprises and nonprofits begin by developing the organization’s Theory of Change.

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