Introduction

Activities are what you do. They are the actions and steps taken to realize your vision of success.

  • What do you do to produce the outcomes and their needed attributes?
  • What do you do to address context elements?
  • What do you do to ensure the necessary inputs are available?

 

Outputs are the direct and tangible products and services delivered from an activity, such as trained community representatives or solar panels placed on roof tops of the consumer. These outputs again produce outcomes.

Since activities and outputs are so closely related, you might choose to include either the activity or its output. The two are combined within Changeroo as a single type of ToC element.

Specify Each Activity/Output and Its Attributes

As applies to each ToC element, you should describe the features needed to achieve results. It’s not enough to describe what you do. You need to identify and specify how well and to what extent it must be done. Such descriptive attributes, for example, refer to the quality, quantity and timeliness of activities and outputs.

These attributes can be incorporated in your ToC in four ways:

  1. If developed further, include them as Key Performance Indicators for an activity or output
  2. As assumptions
  3. Include them in the title of an activity or output
  4. Include them as a description of an activity or output

Level of Detail

A group of coherent activities together form ‘interventions’ or ‘strategies’. You can decide to include such a group of activities in your visualisation as a single element under a collective label such as “capacity development”. But you can also decide to elaborate on the specific activities that make up an intervention or strategy. For instance, a “training for school management committee”, “ongoing mentoring programme” and “exchange visits”. Each of the activities could be elaborated with its own contributions to (intermediate) outcomes and changes.

It is therefore important to decide on the level of detail to describe activities. A ToC as an overview representation generally benefits from simplicity and from grouping of activities and strategies into major blocks. But elaborating activities would be a good option if there are doubts or lack of clarity whether all activities actually contribute to the changes.

The purpose with which you develop the ToC is to act as an important deciding factor for the appropriate level of detail. For example a ToC that is to guide implementation requires a higher level of detail than a ToC for general communication.

Changeroo offers nesting and grouping features that can help to combine a general overview and a more detailed version.

Questions to Ask

Activities

  • What could we do best? What are we good at? What are others already doing? Are others missing important issues, or can others be influenced by collaborating with them? What fits in our policies and our interests?
  • What (groups of coherent) activities will produce the identified outcomes? (those by us as well as by other stakeholders within the scope of our ToC)
  • What are the activities their needed attributes? (e.g. their quality, quantity and timeliness)
  • What level of detail is most helpful for the ToC at hand?
  • What other activities by other stakeholders within our scope positively or negatively affect these outcomes and our vision of success?
  • What activities do we engage in to change, leverage or offset the context in favour of our vision of success? (those by us as well as by other stakeholders within our scope)
  • What activities are or will be used to develop the necessary inputs?

Outputs

  • What direct tangible products and services do these activities produce? Will we formulate them as activities and or as outputs in our ToC?
  • What products and services do we and other stakeholders within our scope produce?

Tools

Journey of Life

Map out the lives of individual people benefitting. Show the key ups and downs of their journey toward change. Discuss what has caused the ups and downs, and identify the organisation’s activities and context elements that contribute to or obstruct change. Draw out from different groups the common strategies, activities, interventions and steps that contribute to this change. Rank these to get at least 3-5 core beliefs about how change happens. Discuss and note why we think these work. Draw out the context elements that hinder change and that we cannot influence directly to identify key risks.

Ritual Dissent

Ritual dissent helps to improve the quality of the interventions to be undertaken and to define priorities. It is a method designed to test and improve proposals or ideas by subjecting them to a ritualised form of dissent or assent. It is meant to simulate the process of delivering new ideas to management or decision-makers, and to open up new thinking to necessary criticism and iterations. The process is meant to enforce listening without disruption.

* Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships on Ritual Dissent.

Six thinking hats

This tool (created by Edward de Bono in his book Six Thinking Hats) enables groups to evaluate decisions from several different perspectives, which will result in more sound decisions. The deliberate use of a number of different, important perspectives (rational, emotional, intuitive, creative or negative perspective) forces participants to go out from their usual thinking style, consider other perspectives and helps achieve a more balanced view of a situation. It allows necessary emotion and scepticism to be brought into what would otherwise be purely rational decisions, opening up the opportunity for creativity within decision making.

* BetterEvaluation

Behaviour change

Most interventions seek to change the behaviour of individuals and/or organisations. Many of these interventions are based on the basic ToC that if people are aware of a problem, have the necessary information, knowledge and skills (capabilities) and are convinced they should do things differently (motivation), then they will act accordingly and change their behaviour.

Often strategies only focus on one of these aspects, such as capabilities through workshops and training. These therefore may be ineffective. These strategies thus, include the assumption that adequate motivation and opportunity are in place, since all three are needed for behaviour change.

In particular, one factor is most often forgotten in strategising for behaviour change: people need to have the opportunity to demonstrate changed behaviour. Opportunity refers to the conditions and (dis)incentives in the context of people that help or hinder them to change their behaviour. For example:

  • Obligations or sanctions, formal and informal
  • Social norms and values, written and unwritten rules, social acceptance
  • Habits
  • Practical blockages
  • Acknowledgement and appreciation by (in)formal power holders vs. their appreciation and rewards for other aspects of behaviour
  • Competing priorities
  • Fear and previous bad experiences

In all steps of the ToC process we need to ask ourselves questions such as:

  • Which assumptions do we make about why people behave the way they do?
  • If we explore and choose strategies, why do we think people will change their behaviour as a response to the intervention? Are all the necessary conditions in place that will help or push them in the desired direction – and are they sufficient? If not, can we change or influence the conditions and incentives that are not favourable for behaviour change?
  • If we propose to work on capacity development, are we sure that people are actually lacking information and capacities? Or are other reasons causing them to act as they do?

* Centre for Behaviour Change, University College London: Resources on Behaviour Change.

* World Development Report 2015: Mind, Society and Behavior.

Systems Change

Kania et al. (2018)J. Kania, M. Kramer & P. Senge (2018) The water of systems change. FSG: Reimagining social change. Available here. offer an actionable framework for systems change. Systems change entails a holistic perspective, shifting conditions that are holding a social or environmental problem in place while taking into account their interdependencies. These conditions exist at three levels, the explicit, semi-explicit and the implicit.

Six conditions of systems change

Changing these six interdependent conditions applies not only to the external system but also to the very same conditions for systems change within your own organisation, such as your own mental models about evaluation and investment in learning.

Four Dimensions of Change Framework

Here is another framework that allows a detailed exploration of the different types of change needed, how they are connected or related, and the strategies that come with them. In most change processes, change in all four dimensions is needed. But often people are familiar with one or two, or have a clear personal preference. The framework helps to open up the conversation between participants in a ToC process about their different perspectives to change. A workshop format to implement such is discussed here.

* Hivos ToC Guidelines: Theory of Change Thinking in Practice, page 90-91.

* I. Retolaza Eguren (2011) A thinking and action approach to navigate in the complexity of social change processes, p.7-8.

Types of Activities/Outputs

Social Intervention Strategy PursuedSource: McKinsey’s social impact assessment portal: http://mckinseyonsociety.com/social-impact-assessment/

Many different kinds of activities and outputs can be distinguished. For example, based on the social intervention strategy pursued:

  • Knowledge development
  • Service/product development and delivery (e.g., soup kitchens, performing arts)
  • Capacity enhancement and skills development (e.g., job training programs)
  • Behavioural change (e.g., anti-drug campaigns, sustainable farming initiatives)
  • Enabling systems and infrastructure (e.g., convening, forming social networks and communities of practice, defining common standards)
  • Policy development and implementation (e.g., public will campaigns, behaviour change campaigns, lobbying, litigation)
  • Supporting activities (e.g., hiring employees, developing monitoring tools, execution of evaluation)“Supporting activities” illustrates you might also need to incorporate in your ToC, the management activities in place to support design, delivery, sustainability, and so forth to achieve outcomes.

Behaviour Change Interventions

Many interventions seek to change the behaviour of individuals or an organisation. To this effect, Mayne (2016)Source: J. Mayne (2016) The Capabilities, Opportunities and Motivation Behaviour-Based Theory of Change Model, Working Paper. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/301701597 offers a typology of behaviour change interventions:

CAPABILITIES

  • Education: Increasing knowledge or understanding (example: providing information to promote healthy eating)
  • Training: Imparting skills (example: advanced driver training to increase safe driving)
  • Modelling: Providing an example for people to aspire to or imitate (example: using TV drama scenes involving safe-sex practices to increase condom use)
  • Enablement: Increasing means or reducing barriers to increase capability or opportunity (example: behavioural support for smoking cessation, medication for cognitive deficits, surgery to reduce obesity, prostheses to promote physical activity)

MOTIVATION

  • Persuasion: Using communication to induce positive or negative feelings or stimulate action (example: using imagery to motivate increases in physical activity)
  • Modelling: see above

OPPORTUNITY

  • Incentivisation: Creating expectation of reward (example: using prize draws to induce attempts to stop smoking)
  • Coercion: Creating expectation of punishment or cost (example: raising the financial cost to reduce excessive alcohol consumption)
  • Restriction: Using rules to reduce the opportunity to engage in the target behaviour (or to increase the target behaviour by reducing the opportunity to engage in competing behaviours) (example: prohibiting sale of solvents to people under 18 to reduce use for intoxication)
  • Environmental restructuring: Changing the physical or social context (example: providing on-screen prompts for GPs to ask about smoking behaviour)
  • Enablement: see under ‘Capabilities’

Sphere of Influence

Furthermore, we can distinguish between activities/outputs inside and outside the organisation’s sphere of influence:

  • Inside: activities/outputs (at least partially) carried out or produced by the organisation.
  • Outside: activities carried out or produced by other organisations, as your organisation will usually not be the only actor whose activities produce outputs that affect the realization of your vision of change. Other actors’ activities and outputs will also have an effect. The most important of these activities and outputs should be included in your ToC.

Other reading

Bloom and DeesP.N. Bloom & G. Dees (2008) Cultivate your ecosystem, Stanford Social Innovation Review, available at http://ssir.org/images/articles/2008WI_feature_bloom_dees.pdf. discuss strategies to build a context for lasting change.