Theory of Change Guidance

Published28th August 2014

The aim of this guidance is to help Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector (VCSE) organisations use a theory of change approach to help design, evaluate and communicate about their projects. It is written for VCSE organisations in the criminal justice sector, most of who are involved in delivering projects directly for service users. The example used throughout is for a supported housing project that aims to help people move away from crime. However it should be noted that theory of change is suitable for all kinds of projects, including those that do not deliver services directly. In summary, theory of change is a tool that will help you think about and design projects; working methodically from the need you are trying to address, to the change you want to achieve and the activities you will deliver.

This process of thinking about change, and how to achieve it, helps teams work together to develop and communicate a shared understanding. It is also a good way to develop plans for evaluating the effectiveness of what you do because it provides a coherent framework for testing whether a project is working as planned and how it can be improved. Ultimately, this will help your organisation to focus on improving outcomes for individuals, communities and society and to better communicate what you achieve.

This guidance takes you through the process of developing a theory of change step-by-step. It introduces you to the basic concepts and some of the different ways to represent and use your theory of change.

Sign-up to the principles

We need your help to put principles into practice