Theory of Change

A plan of change can, for example, be used to help reveal how a current effort is organized, to check if new ideas are logically consistent or to examine if a certain action will have an effect in the short or long term. The method can also help you rethink the effort completely, and from the outset help you focus on the big questions of what major changes the project will contribute to. We have a positive experience using the plan of change as a tool for project management, as it guarantees a focused effort helps us ask the right questions to enhance the development of projects.


Book a meeting for at least a few hours, where relevant participants with good knowledge of the effort in question are involved. Print the Theory of Change (A2) template, or write it on a piece of paper and use it as the focal point for the discussion. In the following example we work from “effects” to “resources”, but you can also begin with “resources” and work towards “effects”.


Write what effects the project should have, on post-it notes. And write how the effects will be evaluated, if possible. The effects are the result of an effort, and therefore an expression of the change that happens in the world when the public sector’s action is happening (for example, higher employment). Attach post-its to the template under “effects” – and discuss what effects are short term and long terms respectively.


Describe the results that would lead to the desired effects. For example, "Companies will get employees with qualified backgrounds". Be aware, if there are several different results in the effort. Write the results on post-its, and attach them to the template. Draw pathways between the effects and results – and discuss which results precede a given effect.


Write down activities (actions, instructions, contact programs or control visits) the initiative consists of, on the post-its. Are all the relevant activities included? If there are activities that are performed by others, then you should also consider adding them. Draw pathways between the effects and results.


List the final resources (inputs such as finance, people, buildings, IT, etc.), that will be used to implement the activities. Hang post-its with the resources to the far left. Connect input with activities.


Identify the critical assumptions the theory is based on, and list them. For example: "We assume that we have enough unemployed workers with the skillsets the companies demand."


You are now ready to work with your change plan. What questions does your change plan pose, and how will you proceed to work with new activities and resources?