By planning your intended change, you’re breaking down the big, awesome visionary change that is very challenging to measure, into more immediate and visible steps. In this way, impact measurement is more possible and useful. It’s also about breaking out what you can influence and then making the link between that and the bolder, systems-level change that you seek. Mapping out your intended change can really help you focus on what you should and could influence. It can also demonstrate your value and engage others in your mission.
This blog explores how to plan your intended change, one of the five Common Foundations to Impact Measurement. This is the first of a five part blog series that exmines the core elements of impact measurement advanced by Carleton's Centre for Community Innovation's Common Approach initiative. The topic this week is: Planning your Intended Change.
Good planning draws on research, experience and intuition. It also makes use of planning tools. A Theory of Change (and related mapping tools such as a Logic Model and Impact Map) helps people make connections between a desired change and the work on the ground to get there. It acts like a guidepost where you can look for early signs that change is happening. It also helps you interpret what you see and is useful in surfacing assumptions that you are making.
At a very basic level, an outcome is a description of what changes as a result of doing something. This is often described in terms of short-term, intermediate and long-term change. Your initiative has more control over short-term outcomes. Intermediate and long-term outcomes also result from other factors within the system that you seek to change.
Here are 3 really simplified examples:
This exercise becomes more useful if you not only describe what you would like to see and are doing, but how you see it happening and the assumptions that go along with that. This is the key difference between a Theory of Change and Logic Models/ Impact Maps. Great resources for planning your intended change include: University of Wisconsin Extension (Logic Models); Betterevaluation.org (Describe the Theory of Change); Social Impact Navigator (The Logic Model and Its Components); Innovation Network (Logic Model Workbook)
Here are a few tips for planning your intended change:
Demonstrating Value has a number of tools, resources and archived blogs that can help you think through and articulate intended change. Here are a few:
When it comes to planning the intended change of your program, initiative or social enterprise, proceed with what appeals and makes sense to you and the area you work in. Remember that what you create is only a model of the real world, and as you get a clearer picture of the outcomes and how your work relates to them, use that information to create a better model. If your initiative/business is emerging, rather than spend much time on developing a detailed plan, I recommend looking to innovative evaluation practices, such as development evaluation, that are well positioned to support nimble decision-making and learning so that you can quickly gain and interpret new evidence. For instance, see Developmental Evaluation at BetterEvaluation.org. If you are working towards colloborative change in a complex societal problem, ‘systems mapping’ and associated tools may be more useful, see FSG (Systems Thinking Toolkit).