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You need the theory of change to strengthen your project impact

In the social sector, especially in the social service sector, it is difficult to measure the impact and what actually caused the change. Normally, in the traditional for-profit organizations, we use financial metrics or product sales to indicate how much profits an organization has made, and in return, we attract investors through our metrics to ensure the sustainability over time. We want this same model in social sectors as well to measure social impact but not with finance or product sales, especially those sectors that only provides services which are intangible, but with a tool called TOC-Theory of change, helping us to measure changes. It has so many names but the Theory of change is the most popular one.

Measurable change is one of the priorities in the social sector, so how do we measure something like poverty or homeless? TOC allows us to identify key data to collect over time to verify that the theory behind actions is valuable, hence it leads to series changes afterword.

It is a rigorous process and contains several parts as shown below.

INPUTS & ACTIVITY indicates products or services and specific activities you are offering to ensure the project keeps going, it may contain financial, human, organizational and etc.

OUTPUT shows the things actually being consumed at the beneficiaries’ level. Usually, they are measurable metrics, for instance, how many numbers of the workshop have been delivered and how many people have been reached out.

OUTCOME is the positive change of adopting such products & services and it mainly focuses on the beneficiary’s level. It changes from •Awareness •Knowledge •Attitudes •Skills •Opinion •Aspirations •Motivation in the short term, or changes in •Behavior •Decision-making •Policies •Social action from medium time period.

IMPACT displays the longer-term change, especially changes in Conditions, Social (well-being), Health, Economic, Civic, Environmental and at the community level as well.

When considering positive changes, we also need to look at the breadth and depth of those changes. That is the actual numbers have been covered and how much and in what way the improvement has been made. Except that, we have to focus on the target market, the real people we are serving for and the extent to which we are reaching to the beneficiaries whom we intended to serve. For example below.

Credit to Acumen

TOC is conducted through the whole project and it is a tool to convince people to join and support your project, it is a tool to guide you to succeed with a logical model, it is also a tool to evaluate the final results to show the project is worth for the efforts. TOC is not stand alone but with other data collection tools as well. Find here to learn more.

Most importantly, measure and manage
toward our definition of impact success. Of
course, there must always be flexibility in
this plan in order to respond to challenges
and opportunities that inevitably arise in a
fast moving social enterprise.

Extracted from Acuman

This article was edited by the original author without their consent, and should not be reproduced.


By Social Innovation Insight

We are the bridge of change!

3 replies on “You need the theory of change to strengthen your project impact”

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