SE101: Crash Course on Theory of Change

As social entrepreneurs, we know that you understand your purpose in bringing about social change. But as individuals, we also understand that the biggest societal challenges we want to tackle cannot be solved alone. Being agents of social change, we do what we can in whatever capacity we are able to. In a social enterprise for example, products and services are developed to impact the lives of people to whom that change matters most.

If you've gone through our Social Impact Accelerator application form, you've probably noticed a section where we ask for a Theory of Change. Before you begin to panic, we've simplified it into concepts you can easily understand.


Think of the ToC as a guide for your social enterprise to attain its desired impact. In crafting your ToC, remember the three essential elements, namely: Problem, Solution, and Desired State.

PROBLEM

It all starts with a problem: the societal issues or challenge that you want to address. For example, your social enterprise tries to solve issues in environmental degradation or hunger. It is best that you state your problem in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals. It is also important to contextualize your problem: who experiences it? What are their typical experiences?

Example:

  • Disaster risk reduction and management in flood-prone rural areas

SOLUTION

The solution is the set of actions that you will provide in order to address the challenge. Remember, your solution is not your product or services, but it is the intended result of your product or services. Another term usually used for solution is output

Example: 

  • Capacity of residents and local government units to respond to disasters and calamities developed

DESIRED STATE

Your desired state encompasses your vision or the end state that you want to contribute for societal development. What are the future effects of your current efforts?

Example:

  • Resilient communities from disasters and calamities

Now that you've got the basics down, it's time to fill in the rest of your Theory of Change:

TOC template for the Social Impact Accelerator can be downloaded  here .

TOC template for the Social Impact Accelerator can be downloaded here.

ACTIVITIES

Activities are the actions you take in order to get to your solution.

Example:

  • Design and development of disaster readiness materials for schools and households

OUTCOMES

Outcomes are the short- to medium- term changes you expect to see as a result of your work. These are your desired results, and answers the question: what are the immediate things you are trying to change?

Example:

  • Faster response and mobilization rates in barangays during disasters and calamities

Who uses the Theory of Change?

Everyone! Organizations of different sizes and sectors use one, but it can often be called other names, such as strategic plan, roadmap, etc.

Is it important for my business to have one?

While businesses can function without one, a Theory of Change can be extremely helpful in identifying how your current day-to-day activities relate to your overall vision.


We hope that this short crash course has helped explain the Theory of Change a little bit better. In no time, you’ll be filling up the template and sending in your final application! Good luck!