Organization & Leadership Consulting

What is a Theory of Change ?

Employees meet to understand the theory of change

A Theory of Change is an effective tool used by many nonprofit organizations and businesses to examine their mission, vision, strategies, objectives, long-term goals, and the stuff that gets in the way. It is a process that allows for change within and outside the organization. This tool looks at both short and long-term changes, represented in either a visual diagram or a narrative. Theory of Change tools are also versatile. They are used at either the starting point, to aid in strategic planning, or to evaluate what already exists. They enable clear communication to all stakeholders of precisely what change you are hoping to make in the world and how you plan to achieve that change.

Pursue Answers

A theory of change tool asks four important questions:

  1. What does your organization do?
  2. Who are the beneficiaries of the results you seek?
  3. What is the logic pathway to reaching your goal?
  4. What do you expect to achieve that goal?

Agree on Process

It is invaluable to involve staff, management, and ownership to produce a Theory of Change. All forward-thinking perspectives contribute to the final description to be produced. Areas of focus should include:

  1. Defining of values, mission, vision, goals, and the problems you are trying to solve;
  2. Establishing key audiences and determining the best means of reaching them;
  3. Considering the steps and resources available to spark interest in change;
  4. Defining how you will measure the success;
  5. Deciding if your outcomes align with your long-term goals.

Next Steps

Once you determine which changes you want to see, you’ll be able to clarify what progress and success look like, as well as factors that will affect that success. From there, you can identify additional questions to ask. Such as, what data to collect, and how to best present decisions for ongoing buy-in and better results.

Take Action to Gain Traction

A Theory of Change document should never sit in a binder on a shelf. It’s most certainly not meant to limit your organization or any of the stakeholders. A Theory of Change helps you define your desired outcomes and how you plan to get there.

Implement Theory of Change with TurningWest

TurningWest knows how to help you create organizational change and guide strategic planning processes. We implement Theory of Change practices in order to identify the “why” and “how” of your business. We’ve been through it from inside and outside the organization.

Contact us today.


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