A Theory of Change, also commonly known as a “program logic statement”, refers to intended consequences using the concept of if-then.
If we deliver this program, then these things will be achieved.
If we keep youth engaged, then we prevent anti-social youth behaviours.
If we provide housing services to the homeless, then we keep vulnerable people off the streets.
If we deliver capacity building programs to Indigenous communities, then we increase their quality of life.
The social services sector refers to these logic statements as a Theory of Change, because the intention is proving (or disproving) whether a program’s intended consequences have indeed occurred through measurement and evaluation.
Mapping out your Theory of Change is an incredibly powerful tool to visualise the short, medium and long-term intended consequences of a program. We refer to these consequences as outcomes – the change in people’s skills, behaviours, knowledge, attributes and values.
If we deliver this program,
Then we achieve… <<short-term outcome>>
Leading to…<<medium-term outcome>>
Ultimately resulting in… <<long-term outcome>>
Let’s take a look at the following example.
A Youth Employment Training Workshop is delivered each school term, where young people are introduced to local employers and industry training opportunities.
The Theory of Change for this Workshop, is as follows:
If young people attend the Youth Employment Training Workshop,
Then… young people will become connected with employment and training opportunities (short-term outcome)
Leading to…opportunities for young people to take on work experience and internship positions (medium-term outcome)
Ultimately resulting in… young people furthering their employment pathways (long-term outcome)
A visualisation of our Theory of Change example above might look something like this:
Now for another example.
A local community centre runs youth football matches twice a week during each school term. The intended outcomes of these matches are to keep young people engage, and to cultivate team-building skills.
The Theory of Change for this program might look like this:
If young people participate in regular football sessions,
Then… young people will learn how to engage positively with other youth (short-term outcome)
Leading to…young people building positive social behaviours (medium-term outcome)
Ultimately resulting in… reduced high-risk and anti-social behaviours (long-term outcome)
So, have a go. Choose a program and create your own Theory of Change.
As you become more familiar with the concept of defining your outcomes you can start to associate multiple Theories of Change to a program.