A Theory of Change visualises a project’s overall aims and the pre-conditions which need to be met in order to reach those aims. Using a Theory of Change (ToC) model allows a project to be contextualised by including inputs, assets and activities.
When reviewing literature from other Children’s Communities we noticed that many of them used a ToC taking into account local recent context, available assets, and key outcomes for communities. This form of planning is often used successfully to promote social change in complex settings.
Theory of Change in action
Here’s an example of a Theory of Change from the Wallsend children’s community in England:
The planning team wanted to create a ToC for Bridgeton and Dalmarnock, and wanted this to be co-produced with partners and communities. However, starting discussions with a blank page is difficult and we felt that it would be useful to put something together to help guide these discussions.
After much debate, the Planning Team decided to create a draft ToC for the Bridgeton and Dalmarnock Children’s Neighbourhood to use as a starting point – knowing the final version would be put together and signed off with our partners. Another reason for doing it this way was to try to answer some questions we’d had about the concept of collective impact – we hoped a draft ToC would contribute to a greater understanding of the overarching approach for Children’s Neighbourhoods.
Developing a Theory of Change
In order to develop a ToC, we needed context. Lizzie and Nancy set out to bring various forms of data together into a concise report. This included statistics from Understanding Glasgow, investment figures from our partners, other initiatives in the neighbourhood, a current 10 year timeline and statistics from our local schools depicting the changing nature of the community.
Although very helpful to set out a broad picture, statistics only tell a certain side of the story of an area. So, after a series of one-to-one meetings with our local partners in the neighbourhood, a questionnaire was sent out to explore their thoughts in more detail. This questionnaire was based on one developed by the International Futures Forum, with questions like:
- What are the most important needs of children and young people in Bridgeton and Dalmarnock?
- What are the current challenges/ barriers to your work having a bigger impact in the neighbourhood? (Please think specifically about the aspects of your work that affect children, young people and families.)
- Can you describe any examples you’ve noted or experienced of successful partnership working?
- What in your experience have been the barriers and facilitators to successful partnership working? How can we get successful partnerships established in Bridgeton and Dalmarnock?
- What action does this require?
This information fed into the draft ToC developed by the planning team which was then used as our starting point for discussion at the workshop with the IFF, held in January 2017. This resulted in a re-iteration of our ToC, taking on board the feedback– you can see where we ended up below.
Another blog is on its way that will give a rundown of the whole workshop in more detail.
Re-iteration of Children’s Neighbourhoods Bridgeton and Dalmarnock
Knowledge Exchange and Impact Fellow