Welcome to this whistlestop tour of the theory of change.

The theory of change is just a tool that is used that shows your goal and explains the steps that you will take to get there. It tells the story of your work in a logical way. 

Because of this, it can either be a visual diagram, or it could be a paragraph of text.  

You can use it to explain your whole organisation or community group, or you could use it for one specific project. 

You can make it before a project begins to plan out your work, or once the work has started to describe what has happened.  

This is an example of a simple theory of change. As we said at the beginning, it’s the story of your work that takes you through the process of achieving the main goal. This is an example of a simple theory of change. As we said at the beginning, it’s the story of your work that takes you through the process of achieving the main goal. 

This project’s main goal is to improve the transition from primary to secondary school. The steps they will take to get there are: 

  • To get hold of a community hall space, one staff member, 2 volunteers and refreshments 

  • With these, they can put on after school social clubs for year 6s, which will will result in children attending these clubs 

  • As a result of these clubs, they hope to see increased social confidence 

  • Which will in turn lead to their main goal 


Though all theories of change will look different, they normally contain these key elements. Though all theories of change will look different, they normally contain these key elements.  

  • Inputs- resources used for delivering you project 
  • Activities- the actions carried out to deliver your service 
  • Outputs- the direct products of your activities 
  • Outcomes- the changes you want to happen 
  • Impact- the overall goal you are trying to achieve 

Each step is reliant on the one before.


Why create a theory of change? 

  • It can be used as a framework for implementation. By mapping out how you are going to achieve your goal you can decide what activities will be best to carry out 

  • It can help you to work out whether your plan is realistic - whether the activities you are carrying out will actually lead to your desired impact 

  • It can be the basis for monitoring and evaluation - if you know what you want to achieve then you can measure whether or not you have achieved it 

  • By creating a theory of change it can help you to define a common purpose for your project or team 

  • Finally, you can use your theory of change as a communication tool, to demonstrate to people what work you’re doing and how it’s making a difference  


How do I make one? 

When you’re creating a theory of change you should decide who you want to be part of the process since you will be deciding common goals.  


Start from the end point (the main goal) and work backwards step by step. 

Finally, make sure you use it!  


For more information

Check out the resources section on our website or contact [email protected] for further support.