Theory of Change


The Theory of Change (ToC) model is useful for producing a conceptual road-map detailing the desired social impacts of your organisation and how they will be achieved through various actions. It is useful for building a framework of change that can be used to articulate specific activities, inputs, outputs, outcomes and impacts.

Theory of Change aims to bridge the gap between an organisation’s activities and the impacts it hopes to achieve. In order to do this, it works back from the desired impacts identifying all the outcomes and outputs that must be achieved initially, thereby identifying which activities will lead to which impacts. It is useful for both planning of an organisation’s activities and evaluation of its impact as it identifies outputs and outcomes which can be easily measured.

The example below shows a simple illustration of how the ToC can be applied:

From the example above you can see how you can work back from broad impacts to identify key success factors/activities that will allow you to achieve desired impacts. It also shows areas that can be measured along the pathway to impact. For example the organisation can measure the number of people attending events and use a change measurement tool (such as Leaf-7 or the Older Person’s Star) to measure the number of people who reported a reduction in loneliness/increase in quality of life.

This guide by New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) provides detailed information on how to create your own Theory of Change, and this can be used for the NPC’s four-pillared approach to building an impact measurement framework.

Find out more about the Theory of Change model

Click to see NPC’s publications on how to construct your own Theory of Change

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