A Theory of Change (ToC) is a visual description of the changes we would expect to observe as a result of our programs in the short and long term. In other words, it’s our very own conditional (if, then) statement. If we do X then Y will change because….
In the not-for-profit sector, a ToC is often used for planning and evaluation of social change. It’s used to help explain the process of change by outlining causal linkages in an initiative, i.e., its shorter, intermediate and longer-term outcomes. The links between outcomes are explained by rationals, assumptions or statements of why one outcome is thought to be a prerequisite for another.
At Hackergal, as we design programs and then aim to measure their impact, a ToC and all of its assumptions helps to show all the different pathways that might lead to change (even if those pathways are not related to our programs or experiences). It describes how and why we think change happens and helps inform decisions about why our programs are designed in specific ways. For example, we believe our 4:1 learner to mentor ratio promotes a social and collaborative learning environment that leads to more confidence in our learners with technology. This is an assumption (backed by evidence!) in our ToC. If we create social and collaborative learning environments; learners will leave feeling more comfortable and confident with technology.
Our evaluation efforts – feedback surveys, focus groups and more all aim to measure whether or not change is happening and if our assumptions hold true. As more evaluation data becomes available, our ToC may evolve and be refined all with the goal of helping us better demonstrate progress on the achievement of our outcomes and the BIG change we want to see in Canada.