About Theory of Change
"Efficiency is doing things right, effectiveness is doing the right things." Peter Drucker
Before creating a strategic plan, an advocacy plan or a project plan, taking the time to think through how change actually occurs (versus the way we think it should occur) is well worth doing.
That's what a Theory of Change (TOC) is. It's your best calculation of how the change you want to see, is likely to come about, with or without help from your organization. That last part is important.
ActKnowledge, a leading resource on using Theory of Change for strategic planning and project planning,
describes TOC this way:
The TOC process elicits a conceptually tight, highly-detailed explanation for what changes need to occur
and their relation to one another, for your the ultimate change you seek to be possible.
This approach gives you the opportunity to step back from the day-to-day work of the organization to consider all the factors, conditions and players that contribute the situation that you want to change, before you decide what your organization will do to help bring about the change it seeks.
Suggested Guidelines for Creating a Theory of Change
For advocacy planning here's a short video and blog post on how to create a Theory of Change for an advocacy campaign (also applicable to any kind of planning).
The Community Builder's Approach to Theory of Change, Aspen Institute.