Creating a Theory of Change

A Theory of Change (ToC) is a powerful tool that helps organisations and initiatives plan how they will create change, assess their effectiveness and communicate to stakeholders. Growing in popularity over the last decade, it is now used widely by charities, social enterprises, the public sector and gradually even by mainstream businesses who are recognising its potential.

A ToC is normally depicted as a map, or a journey, linking the activities of a programme, intervention or organisation to the short-term, medium-term and long-term outcomes experienced by stakeholders.  It is a living diagram and narrative that should be updated as the work of the organisation changes.

Using qualitative approaches to gain an intimate understanding of how an intervention impacts on the lives of those affected leads to better quantitative analysis and modelling at later stages of an SROI analysis. Before you can start to value, you need data on outcomes; and before you collect data on outcomes, you need to make sure you are measuring the appropriate outcomes. A strong Theory of Change helps make SROI modelling easier, communicating potential impact considerations such as deadweight and attribution.

Creating a Theory of Change

One-day workshop

NEF has developed proven templates to run storyboard exercises in workshops and focus groups in a range of settings, gathering data directly from service users. NEF Consulting has constructed theories of change for a range of programmes. We have found that the best evaluations, including SROIs, are underpinned by strong theories of change developed early in the research process, so would recommend this course to anyone starting a new social impact project.

During the day we explore what a theory of change is, how to construct one and best practice in conducting robust qualitative research.

Topics covered include

  • The big picture: theory of change and its role in strategic planning and evaluation.
  • Talking in outcomes: theory of change and other impact formats
  • Collecting theory of change data: engaging with stakeholders
  • Using the theory of change framework
  • Next steps: planning, verifying and communicating findings.

What you will learn

By the end of the course you will:

  • Be able to describe a theory of change and when it is appropriate to use it.
  • Understand what an outcome is and describe the similarities and differences between a theory of change and a logic model or impact map.
  • Feel able to design a process and discussion guide for engaging with stakeholders.
  • Feel confident using the component parts of a theory of change and to communicate their strategic value.
  • Find a personal approach to visualising and describing a theory of change.
  • Plan for how you will test and communicate your theory of change.

Who should attend

Anyone looking to bring the strategic lens of theory of change to their planning or evaluation. If you have a project in mind, the course will offer the opportunity to map out your theory and gain feedback.

Who will be running the workshop?

Jake Kuyer, Senior Consultant, NEF Consulting

Jake joined NEF Consulting in August 2015.  He is interested in the application of economic analysis to social and environmental issues to improve the overall relationship between the economy, the environment and society.

With several years’ experience in consultancy, he previously worked as an environmental economist with a multinational engineering firm engaged on a wide range of projects for the public and private sector including impact assessment, carbon auditing and the ecosystem services approach. For more information click here.

Anke Winchenbach, Senior Consultant, NEF Consulting

Anke Winchenbach web croppedWith a strong background in triple-bottom line assessment and reporting, Anke’s particular passion lies in socio-economic impact areas, including wellbeing measurement and Social Return on Investment (SROI).

Anke has delivered workshops for organisations aiming to achieve ISO20121 and supported policy makers and businesses through practical advice on how to integrate sustainability into their day-to-day work and to improve performance. For more information click here.


Dates and venue

Forthcoming courses :

  • 23 January, London – *NOW FULLY BOOKED*
  • 21 March, London – book here by 7 March.
  • 27 June, London – book here by 13 June.

Sign up for updates here.
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Prices for courses from 2018

Standard price                                £295  

Registered charity price               £245  

*All courses are subject to U.K. VAT

Fee includes refreshments and lunch as well as training materials.

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“[The Facilitator was] excellent, informative and approachable.” Annie Hedge, Rights of Women, November 2015