Example of Theory of Change: Environmental Project

Oct 8, 2020 | by Fajri

Example of Theory of Change in Environmental Project

In our previous blog, we discussed how the ‘Theory of Change’ can be formulated and applied to an impact project and what are the important steps that one needs to keep in mind. This blog will chalk out an example of theory of change to make the concepts clearer but before we move on, here’s a quick recap of the broad outlines of developing ToC. UN Environment‘s definition of ToC sums it up aptly:

“The Theory of Change of an intervention depicts the causal pathways from outputs through outcomes via intermediate states towards impact. The Theory of Change further defines the external factors that influence change along the major pathways i.e. factors that affect whether one result can lead to the next. These contributing factors are called drivers and assumptions. This approach has the benefit of incorporating the intended logic of intervention into its implementation context.” 

Ask yourself a couple of questions before setting out:  

  • What is the long-term goal or outcome your project wants to achieve?
  • What are the conditions required to reach the goal?

Then comes the process of ‘backward mapping’, identifying interventions, and developing indicators. 

Tip: Always remember, while the ToC should be developed before the initiation of the project, you must review it periodically as the project evolves.

In this blog post, we shall discuss a Theory of Change example for an environmental project. We’ll bring back the same example used in our blog series on SROI analysis. 

Under the ‘West Java Redevelopment Project’, the NGO plans to increase the green cover in and around the area. In this case, the desired impact would be ‘increased green cover’—it is from here that we’ll begin working our way backward to resources and inputs that will be required for the project to achieve the desired result. 

Next comes setting up preconditions that need to exist to achieve the goal. Here, the NGO zeroes down on three broad preconditions to ensure ‘increased green cover’ in West Java. 

1) Implementing ‘green’ strategy in existing residential societies/hospitals/schools 

2) Greener public areas

3) Planting at least 100 saplings 

Now you will begin identifying pathways (outcomes pathways) that would lead to the ultimate goal, outlining the flow between shorter-term, intermediate and longer-term outcomes. Remember, all these are connected by links. Don’t forget to provide assumptions for the preconditions you set.

Example of Theory of Change: Illustration

example of theory of change

In this case, the preconditions for the above-mentioned assumptions are the following:

For the first precondition, the assumption established that residential societies, hospitals, schools usually have some unused space that can be effectively managed to introduce some green cover. It beautifies the premises and also adds to the greenery of the area. The same assumption was held true for public areas. 

Setting up a target for a sapling plantation will help quantify the goal.

In the next step, the NGO will decide upon the interventions or the activities that it plans to take up to increase West Java’s green cover. The NGO decides to conduct workshops for residents, shops, and establishment owners of the area as well as for those who represent hospitals, schools, hotels, et cetera., in the region. These interventions or activities will fall across various stages during the course of the project. 

For example, the first such intervention taken up by the NGO was to launch a campaign to reach out to the various parties. Representatives from residential societies, owners of establishments, others in the area would be briefed about the program. Similarly, ‘green’ workshops will be conducted for ‘target’ groups at a later stage. 

You will need to refer to the chart to understand the flow of interventions all the way to the top (goal). 

Tip: You will need to monitor and assess the effectiveness of the initiative by identifying indicators for outcomes and preconditions. This exercise will help in gauging whether an outcome has occurred and how effective it has been. 

impact management platform

In a nutshell: Don’t forget to document your ToC in detail – outcomes, preconditions, assumptions and justifications, interventions, indicators. Evaluate and assess the ToC from time to time.

Learn more about how to develop your ToC here


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