Theories of change are a description of the research base or roadmap of the belief system (e.g., assumptions, “best practices,” experiences) and strategies for making positive change in the lives of individuals and the community. They provide a clear expression of the apparent relationships between actions and hoped-for results. Theory of change frameworks are highly individual and reflect an organization’s or community’s unique needs and preferences for what kind of changes it wants to make as a result of its efforts.
Theories of change are used by organizations or communities to guide them toward a long-term goal. Groups will enter the process at different points, and build it out and narrow it down. It is a participatory process that is democratic and flexible.
Theories of change provide a high-level lens for accountability and aid planning and communication with funders and other stakeholders. They are an integral part of outcome-based planning and evaluation.