E Co. bites: What does “theory” mean in Theory of Change and why is it important?

14 September 2020, Category: All insights, E Co. bites

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Speaker: Dr Grant Ballard-Tremeer

Question: What does “theory” mean in Theory of Change and why is it important?

When I first started developing theories of change, I started off by drawing diagrams of how one acitivty led to another activity or another result. I showed my first draft to a specialist in evaluation methodologies and she said well, your Theory of Change doesn’t have any *Theory*. It look me a while to understand this but it was a really important lesson for me. A Theory of Change should communicate how certain actions produce certain results and why we expect that logic to hold true – that’s the Theory part of the Theory of Change.

To develop this understanding it is helpful to understand things like behavioural economics and the science of behaviour change – understanding the psychology of decision-making; understanding how society works and functions and the social mechanisms that are at play – in order to be able to communicate or convey through a Theory of Change – what our Theory is. Why do we think that “if we do A, B and C, we’ll get result D”?

If you think deeply about this, and understand and explain the Theory behind the change you want, I guarantee you will have a better project design that can deliver better results, and is more likely to be funded.

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