After my first efforts with Theory of Change for the NHS last year, I was really keen to have another go and to see if some training would help me do any better – I have a feeling that there is only so much theory you need before getting better is just a case of getting more experienced.
Courtesy of my current role (and a charity bursary, hurrah for working for a skint organisation) I attended the day long Theory of Change workshop delivered at Gloucester Cathedral by the VSCO and supported by Gloucestershire Rural Community Council. It was a fantastically taught day and we all got a whip through of the theory, plus a chance to throw together a TOC for a project of our own.
As a follow on, I was invited to deliver a session on TOC for our organisation’s away day that would be suitable for everyone from the house keeper to the board members. I was under strict instructions not to call it Theory of Change for fear that this would put off some of our less strategic staff members. Personally, I thought that might be expecting too little of our staff but sub titled it ‘Is this the way to Amarillo?’ in the hope of demonstrating (with music) that a TOC should work as a road map of sorts to where we want to go.
The session went down a storm and every team produced a TOC, bar the useful arrows that help make sense of it (not bad for a 45 min session). As before, the most useful and most challenging parts seem to be sequencing the events/activities that need to take place to achieve the long term goal and identifying the assumptions we’re making along the way. One of the problems with assumptions that we make is that they are so deeply embedded in the attitudes/approaches of the sector we work in that they become invisible, so finding a way to make them more visible is important if you want to check that they are reasonable assumptions. We’re told that this is why it can be great to involve as many stakeholders as possible in writing your TOC as service users and so on can bring a new perspective and help flag up the assumptions we’re all blind to. There was a discussion about the merits of involving our service users in helping us write a new TOC, so I’ll wait and see…