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Developing your Theory of Change
by Changeroo
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Changeroo can be used no matter which stage of development your Theory of Change (ToC) is in. It is of value irrespective of whether you’re new to ToC-thinking or have several years of experience. Guiding texts and resources help develop a first version, thought tools help deepen a particular aspect of your ToC, and stakeholder engagement functionalities facilitate a continuous learning process that benefits even the most advanced ToC. This post looks at the process to go through to develop your ToC.

Essential to explicate

There’s increasing awareness that to deliver actual impact it is essential to create and to explicate well-thought-through strategies, to engage stakeholders in forming these strategies, to monitor and measure results using impact measurement methodologies, and to subsequently adjust strategies where necessary and scale up those that work. Changeroo allows you to manage this process and to think about impact strategically.

External actors demand such explication. Stakeholders are looking for organizations that in a compact way can show accurate and intelligent insight in and validation of their ToC. Take for example the questions that impact investors and grant makers ask. These are to a large extent about them learning about your ToC. They want to go beyond the heart that is your mission and vision for the world. They want to find out if your approach convinces them, the ways in which they can help, the progress being made, the learning processes you’ve put in place, etc. At the same time stakeholder don’t immediately want to have to read lengthy sustainability and impact reports.

Every organization pursuing societal value has a ToC. If it is not yet explicit then certainly implicitly you’ll have ideas about how your organization is of value to society and how it contributes to societal change.

Suited for all stages of development

Changeroo can be used no matter which stage of development your ToC is in and is of value irrespective whether you’re new to ToC thinking or have years of experience.

Developing a ToC may seem overwhelming at first. But the most important step is to just start by making your thoughts explicit about how your organization creates societal value. From there and with the help of Changeroo and your stakeholders you will step by step improve in specificity, clarity, accuracy and thoroughness.

For example, a full ToC includes how a full ecosystem of actors generates impact within a certain theme and how they change institutions and culture to support that change. But instead you may choose to initially limit the scope of your ToC to what your organization does and contributes (which is also the minimal version required for impact measurement).

A first draft. Guiding texts and instructions, as part of Changeroo, explain the basics and help you develop a first version. We point to the questions to ask and the issues to pay attention to. You immediately start to benefit from ToC thinking. The co-creation capabilities of Changeroo make that a relatively simple version of your ToC can already suffice to get the development process going. It allows you to use ToC thinking in the conversations about your organization or you could use it for an application to a grant maker or investor.

Stakeholder feedback. From that first version onward, Changeroo facilitates in the further development of your ToC’s clarity and specificity. You can use your draft to engage stakeholders to give feedback (online or offline), and utilize their input to further expand and improve your ToC. Experts committed to help organizations’ societal mission move forward, may be available to give their input to further improve and develop your ToC.

Expand the scope. Next, you may want to expand the scope of your ToC and take on more of an ecosystem lens. For your first draft you might have chosen to limit yourself to what your organization does and may have ignored the influence of other actors on your vision of success. Expanding your scope means you further incorporate how other actors other than you contribute to the vision of success you seek to realize. To this end, you may involve them in the development process using the engagement functions of Changeroo.

Pay special attention to certain topics. We point to ‘thought tools’ that will help to further deepen and expand your ToC, such as on the topic of partnerships or indicator development.

Strategic learning. Changeroo facilitates a continuous learning process that benefits even the most advanced ToC. After all, a ToC changes over time. Not only will your own insights and understanding develop over time from the experiences you have, but also the world itself changes. Technological advancements generate new opportunities, the political situation may change, other actors may cause the context to change, and so on. The development of a ToC therefore never stops.

“If we are candid with stakeholders and tell them what we do and don’t know and make them part of the process, it’s much more engaging for them” (Craig Valters). It is this engaged learning process that Changeroo ’s communication and engagement capabilities facilitate.

As part of the communication capabilities, it is possible for premium Changeroo account subscribers to embed their account on their own organization website. It is user friendly since the interaction functionalities will be intact on your website. The issues strategic to your ToC such as KPIs, needs, validation, and opportunities and threats, are included in your ToC. After all, many issues are strategic because of their effect on your ToC. This thus allows you to talk about your organization from the basis of your ToC. This is why we like to regard Changeroo as the new “About Us” page for social organizations. Subsequently stakeholders can engage with and contribute to the issues that are strategic to your organization and that thus present the areas where you stand to benefit the most from such engagement. The result is an evolving co-creation of a Wiki Report on the societal value creation of your organization.

Development settings

Changeroo can be used in various use situations:

  • An individual person building his or her ToC with the help of the resources that Changeroo offers.
  • A group setting, such as a workshop, where people together build and critically reflect on a ToC. Changeroo facilitates this group process through its resources, quick visualization and online collaboration.
  • Online stakeholder engagement, where stakeholders provide feedback to further improve your ToC and help you implement it.
  • Offline stakeholder engagement. In response to a ToC, stakeholders may be interested in working together and contact the organization directly. You use your ToC as basis to talk about your organization.
  • Keeping stakeholders informed with updates. An organization’s web “administrator” can keep stakeholders informed by regular updates such as on the progress made and the needs of the organization and not necessarily changing the ToC altogether.

Developing your Theory of Change: The process

Developing your ToC entails an iterative process consisting of several steps, and Changeroo guides you through each of these steps.


The development process of a ToC is not linear in nature. You’ll go back and forth between the steps, adding new components and relationships as well as eliminating non-essential ones, together with stakeholders. Eventually you are to arrive at a relatively simple but still complete image that visualizes the rationale how change happens, and why certain actions will make your vision of success a reality. This calls for clarity and specificity that you’ll develop over time as you gain experience.

Tips. A few tips to help you in the development process:

  • Start with a simple version. Initially it’s all about getting the development process going and a simple version is all that it takes. Use that first version to communicate about your organization. From there discussions and feedback will organically move you forward.
  • You could choose to organize a brainstorm session together with your co-workers and stakeholders to arrive at a first version.
  • An experienced facilitator may be helpful, particularly if you’re not familiar with the ToC concept. Feel free to contact us if you would like our help to get you in touch with experienced facilitators who can organize a brainstorm session.
  • Eliminating parts of your ToC might proof equally or even more important than expanding it.
  • The links to research reports at the end of this blog post may also be helpful. “Theory of Change Thinking in Practice: A stepwise approach” by Hivos and the “Logic model Development Guide” by W.K. Kellogg Foundation provide practical sources on the ToC development process.