4. Planning Your Intended Change /

4.4 Describing your theory of change


We can describe the process of change in a way that others can easily grasp.

To meet the standard in full, you have described how and why your work brings about change. This process of change is set out in an appropriate and straightforward way, which shows the relationships between your actions and the results they bring about. This can be set out visually in the form of a diagram that is often referred to as a ‘theory of change’ or ‘logic model’.

It can be really helpful to be clear about what you want your social enterprise to achieve as well as how they want to achieve it.

There are a variety of planning tools you can use to describe your intended change effort, which in turn can also help you to achieve and measure the change. These are often referred to as Theory of Change, Outcomes Mapping, or Logic Modelling tools.

These are planning approaches that help to produce a simplified, visual picture of the logical relationships between the resources you put into your work, the activities that take place, and the changes that result.

Think of this as like making a roadmap. One that outlines your end destination, the journey you must take to get there, and the how you will chart progress along the way.

It’s best to describe the change effort for your organization in a way that makes sense to you, using appropriate diagrams, pictures or flow charts. You can access some great templates, examples and resources relating to logic models here.

Logic Models can quickly begin to get complicated and time-consuming to put together, so decide carefully how in-depth you want to go.

The Social Impact Canvas from the Social Impact Institute offers a great template you can use to quickly identify the main changes you aspire to, and determine what and how to measure your contribution to these.

There are four steps to completing a Social Impact Canvas:

  1. Start off by describing your impact, the end result that your organization is working towards.
  2. Break down your intended impact into a number of main outcomes. Your outcomes are the changes or effects that are most important to achieving your intended impact.
  3. Define the performance measures (or indicators) that will help you quantify and track progress towards your identified outcomes. We discuss the use of performance indicators more in Section 5.
  4. List the strategies that you will employ. These are the combination of activities necessary to achieve your intended results.

You can access a guide to using the Social Impact Canvas here and there is much more information about planning your intended change in Course 5 of the Impact Practice series.