Online Theory of Change Tool

An online facility to develop and manage high-quality Theories of Change, and to make social value creation the standard.

Martin Klein
Martin Klein
Posted in: Making Data Count
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Project members of the Online Theory of Change developed an online facility for developing and managing high-quality Theories of Change. A consortium was formed with organisations interested to get this off the ground. The tool is currently being tested in the field. If you’re interested to join or support this initiatives, we would be happy to provide you with more information.

Online Theory of Change

Changeroo is a ‘cutting edge’ online facility, new to the development sector, that strengthens Theory of Change (ToC) practice and offers solutions to the challenges organisations find themselves confronted within their current ToC practice.

The online facility helps organisations, programmes and projects with a social mission;

  1. to develop and manage high-quality ToCs
  2. to integrate ToC-thinking and the associated mindset in their organisation’s culture, and
  3. to optimally utilize their ToCs for purposes such as strategic learning, monitoring, evaluation, scaling, communication and stakeholder engagement.

ToC-thinking well implemented is a way for strategic management of societal value creation. Indeed ToC is quickly becoming a mainstream approach in the development sector for planning and learning. And rightfully so, it helps development organisations manage the complexities of everyday reality, something the “old” log frames were unable to do.

But there is also a lot of unrealised potential: quality of a lot of the ToCs remains inadequate, capacity within (partner) organisations may be insufficient, organisations face difficulty to keep ToCs alive and often implement it as a one-time exercise instead of a continuous learning process, ToCs remain restricted to internal use only and are not used as a cornerstone of communication and engagement as they could be, etc. Eventually, learning and impact suffer.

The MFSII evaluation confirms the unrealized potential: The potential of ToC as a tool for collective reflection, learning and adaptation is enormous.

However, few of the evaluated alliances used ToCs effectively for communication, organisation, analysis, action, reflection or adjustment based on experience. There were many instances where we found that alliances could have made better use of this potential, and most alliances did not systematically reflect on and adjust Theories of Change during their programmes. A key lesson learned from the evaluation is that programmes could in many cases be strengthened by more active use of ToCs or

related tools enabling continuous reflection and adaptation of strategy in light of changing circumstances.

We believe the way forward is development and management of ToCs online, in the cloud. Not as a substitute for face-to-face contact and the workshops that are currently used, but as a way to strengthen these and to promote continuous learning with regard to societal value creation.

ToC development in the cloud potentially offers several benefits. Such benefits include improved remote collaboration, it enables to keep complex ToCs organised, for example using nested ToCs and by integrating the narrative interactively in the ToC’s visualization, it can also strengthen stakeholder engagement and co-creation on ToCs, and lastly it can facilitate the strategic learning process, for example as adjustments to a ToC are easier to implement online and an online tool could create a history of a ToC thereby visualizing the organisation’s learning process.

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Team members

Anne-Marie Heemskerk
Anne-Marie Heemskerk
The Spindle
Caroline Desalos
Wageningen University & Research
Dick van Blitterswijk
Hettie Walters
Fair and Sustainable
Ingrid Plag
Jan Brouwers
Wageningen University
Karen Maas
Erasmus University
Marjan van Es
Martin Klein
Business for Development
Saskia Brand
Trudi van Ingen
Tropenbos International
Wim Blok
Woord en Daad
Wout Visser
Wouter Hijweege
Wouter Rijneveld

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