Developing ToC: A case study of an educational project
If you have been following our blogs on the Theory of Change, by now you would have an understanding of developing ToC, how it is developed and its application in an impact project. Just a recap, Theory of Change is a narrative or depiction of a framework that shows how an organization can work its way to realizing its end goal. Think of it as a planning tool for your project/initiative that can help in deciding how to reach the desired goal and then also use this framework to measure the impact & success.
Remember, ToC depicts the intricate link between the ‘outcomes’ (the desired goal), ‘outputs’ (product or service that will lead to achieving the outcome), and ‘inputs’ (interventions, resources, i.e., time, money, physical resources like computers, partners, et cetera.)
The previous blog was the first example in a series of case studies that we plan to publish on ToC. Our last blog exhibited how ToC can be developed in case of an environmental impact project. This blog will focus on the application of developing ToC in an educational impact project.
The drill remains the same. You will start by setting out the long-term goal that is to be achieved by the project and then list out the conditions required to reach the goal. This will be followed by ‘backward mapping’, identifying interventions, and developing indicators.
In this case, the desired impact or outcome would be ‘computer skills in maids & cooks of West Java’. From here, we’ll begin working our way backward. The NGO will need to identify resources or inputs that are required for the project to achieve the long-term goal and changes (preconditions) that need to take place to achieve it.
The NGO arrived at two broad preconditions to ensure that its goal of achieving literacy skills in housemaids is achieved by the end of the project.
1) Basic literacy skills
2) Coping and adaptability skills for workplace dynamics
As the assumption and justification of the preconditions, the NGO stated that basic literacy skills will help maids and cooks grasp computer skills faster. It will also help them secure employment after an added advantage of basic computer operations.
Refer to the ToC map to understand the flow of interventions and activities.
In case some of the participants do get a job, say as a data entry professional or at an admin desk, they will need coping skills to quickly adapt to the work culture of the organization.
Next up, the NGO will begin identifying pathways (outcomes pathway) leading to the ultimate goal. The flow between shorter-term, intermediate, and longer-term outcomes will be defined and outlined, all connected by links.
Tip: Outcome versus output
Remember, outputs should not be confused with outcomes. For example, if a training program aims to get people into jobs then completion of the program is an ‘output’ while participants securing a job is an ‘outcome’.
Inputs and interventions
The next step will be to decide upon the interventions or the activities that the NGO plans to take up to impart computer skills to house helps. These may range from a campaign to a series of training sessions & workshops for the participants. The NGO may also plan to target a group of prospective employers for the participants and hold a session with them.
NOTE: The interventions or activities will fall across various stages of the project. The NGO may first like to launch a campaign to reach out to the group of house-maids and educate them about the program and get them to enroll. This will be among the preliminary set of interventions or activities. Workshops & training will fall later in the stage, leading to the final goal.
Once the TOC is designed and the project is executed, The effectiveness of an initiative can be assessed by identifying indicators for outcomes and preconditions. Evaluate the ToC from time to time and don’t forget to document it thoroughly.