A Theory of Change and intended impact work together as an iterative process, informed by PolicyWise’ values, missions and the ongoing learning through measuring impact. Together they explain how PolicyWise’ intended impact will happen, and help to inform and align resources and core business strategies to achieve the intended result.
PolicyWise received a small grant from Innoweave, an initiative of the JW McConnell Family Foundation. An Innoweave coach provided guidance and a valuable outsider’s perspective as we worked to identify and characterize our intended impact and Theory of Change.
Working with Innoweave ensured we took a more critical look at our organization, and prompted us to be much clearer in our concepts and the linkages we were making between strategic directions, inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes and impact. Our leadership team drafted, tested and refined a set of outcome goals, impact statements, and a Theory of Change that was then “pressure tested”. This process refined our thinking through research and working group conversations. Hearing from our staff and beneficiaries, applying evidence and lessons learned from others provided depth, clarity and engagement in the development of PolicyWise’ Theory of Change and intended impact
Program Analysis – a review of internal processes and documentation, and interviews with staff and beneficiaries;
Evidence Analysis – a research review involving an external expert consultation from academia and peer organizations.
Landscape Analysis – an examination of others in a similar field to understand how differences and where collaboration can happen to avoid duplication.
A series of outcomes will contribute to our intended impact. Impact measurement looks beyond outcomes to study the cumulative effects on the environment as a whole, or to put it plainly, the footprint left as a result of The Centre’s work. Evaluation and impact assessment frameworks help to determine the extent to which intended outputs, outcomes and impacts are achieved. (Rossi, Lipsey, & Freeman, 2004)
A Theory of Change explains how activities are understood to produce a series of results that contribute to achieving the final intended impacts (Rogers, 2014). It is an important building block for impact evaluations as it explains how an approach is understood to work; that is, how PolicyWise’ approach to evidence-informed policy and practice is understood to work.
Using the Theory of Change, we will ask more questions: how each project was successful, why was it successful, what was the influence of context, who was involved? This understanding will help us identify approach to be replicated in future projects to have our desired impact. (Patton MQ. Qualitative research & evaluation methods: integrating theory and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE; 2015)
Ongoing monitoring and evaluation will allow us to support ongoing learning, adaptation and improvement. It will also support communication of achievements to our stakeholders.
Through a commitment to continuous improvement partnership with government, academia, and community, we are optimistic about the future. Our approach to research and evaluation will help us achieve our central impact of influencing evidence-informed policy and practice to improve child, family and community well-being.