A Theory of Change can be divided into:
- the change process and
- the Theory of Action
Whereas the change process describes our overall theory of how we believe change happens, the Theory of Action describes the intervention we believe is necessary to bring about that change.
The Theory of Action is the interventions and strategies constructed to activate the change processes and steer them into the direction of the vision of success.
As the change process becomes clear, it is time to look at the Theory of Action. In order to move towards an actionable intervention we need to bring diverse ideas together, prioritise strategic options, identify concrete and feasible opportunities, and consider capacity and resources. The rich insights generated from the ToC process – shared information, insights, ideas and questions – need to be translated into a project design with realistic objectives and clear pathways of change.
The Theory of Action consists of interdependent outputs, activities and inputs. Activities use inputs to produce outputs. Together these ToC elements organise into pathways to outcomes: pathways that produce the direct outcomes of intervention(s). Indeed, activities, outputs, inputs and context elements together represent the factors and their desired attributes that determine whether the ToC and its outcomes and desired attributes are achieved.
An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
For example, in the case of the An Apple a Day program, the Theory of Action consists of the first three elements (in yellow). These are the interventions and strategies that will ultimately bring about change (in blue).