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October 25, 2010


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A very interesting screed. :) I am definitely a proponent of a theory of change but not in the way that you describe it as a stick wielded by a funder. First, I don't really distinguish a ToC from a logic model and second, a theory of change is a way for me to keep the "gravity" of my organization positioned correctly. A well implemented Theory of Change is what the staff and leadership of a NPO can use to manage their tasks to check that they are spending their time using inputs to create outputs that have strong logical connections to the change the organization wants to see. Similarly, it is a good way to check any proposals for new activity. Does the new activity use valuable inputs to create outputs that have strong logical connections to the change the organization wants to see? I see a ToC as very tactical and very iterative. I am very sympathetic to your argument that a ToC should not be over-complicated. A ToC should make an NPO both more effective AND more efficient. The efficient part is the tough one and it is what brought me to this work in the first place. In the process of helping NPO's to advance their missions I have found that one of the most effective tools is CRM or more generically, data and process management. If an organization can successfully facilitate the tasks that are most successful at advancing their organization then they can 1) gain efficiencies through automation, 2) gain efficacy through more, better, faster, 3) gain insight in to their impact because the system will incidentally be collecting data on the tasks that effective move the needle.


Thanks for your message, Conches. While you don't distinguish a theory of change from a logic model, many people in the field do—see, for example, Evaluation: A Systematic Approach, 7th edition, by Rossi et al., or the GrantCraft publication referenced earlier. That said, it's not a difficult thing to read or infer a theory of change (in fact, many theories of change) from a logic model. Your use of the words "inputs" and "outputs" makes me think you're most likely using something like a logic model in your work.

Would you mind sharing your logic model or theory of change by e-mailing it to courtesy_telephone (at) yahoo.com? I would like to bettter understand how it made your work more effective and efficient. This has not generally been the experience of the colleagues I've polled, so yours would be an interesting case study.

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