Happy weekend! I’m Elizabeth DiLuzio, volunteer curator for AEA365, and lately I have been captivated by the brilliance of the tools for which we are best known: the Theory of Change (TOC) and the Logic Model (LM). What I learned about them in grad school was a bit reductive: that they are products to be created at the beginning of an evaluation for the purpose of communicating the way an organization, program, or initiative works. And while this is true, I have learned from my peers since then that their real power lies in the conversations and revelations that emerge when stakeholders gather to collaboratively create them. It turns out that they are not only tools but a valuable problem-solving process!
Here are some examples of challenges in the life of a program, organization, or initiative where you might consider engaging in either (or both) of these processes.
The moment: When a program needs to take its next step or make a strategic shift
The goal: To inform strategic decisions
How these tools can help: Engaging in a TOC process will help your stakeholders to co-create a vision of their desired impact and pool their wisdom about societal, economic, political, and institutional influences that will either help or hinder the process. Any strategic decision becomes easier when made from this shared understanding.
The moment: When the program is expanding or experiencing turnover
The goal: To acculturate new stakeholders
How these tools can help: Finalized versions of a program’s TOC and LM serve as excellent communication tools in the onboarding of new stakeholders. They provide the reader the essential information about a program: who, what, where, when, why, and how.
The moment: New research, trends, or funding requirements emerge
The goal: To foster adaptation
How these tools can help: Gather stakeholders together to revise both documents, beginning with the TOC. How can this new information be incorporated into the current way of thinking? Then, move on to the LM. How will this new information impact the current way of doing business? Make any additions and changes needed as the discussions unfold.
The moment: Unexpected, undesirable, or inconsistent feedback from constituents emerges
The goal: To improve practice / course correct
How these tools can help: Use the logic model to assess program fidelity. See if there are unaligned practices in place that might be causing the feedback. If the program is operating as intended, revisit the TOC to see if there are aspects of the program’s underlying theory that need to be revised.
The moment: Program practice is misaligned
The goal: To codify practices
How these tools can help: Convene stakeholders and begin by creating a TOC. Use the process to assess which activities being implemented are aligned and which should be cut. Then, either revise or create a LM to describe the new way of working.
The moment: An opportunity to create a new program or initiative has arisen
The goal: To spark innovation
How these tools can help: Use the TOC process to dream about the end goal for participants. Then, identify the levers and obstacles. Next, create a LM to outline the day-to-day practices.
Now it’s your turn: When else have you used a TOC or LM to initiate programmatic change with stakeholders? Share with us in the comments below or in our Evaluators’ Slack Channel, where you can comment, share links, and even upload resources. It’s easy to join and free to use. We’ll see you there!
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