The theory of change is presented as a Prezi, and can be accessed here.
A theory of change is a tool for helping us examine and clarify our understandings of how our actions as organizations lead to change. The process of developing a theory of change helps us to confront and refine our assumptions about how change happens.
The following theory of change is designed as a tool to inspire reflection in our sector. It encompasses the work of many different organizations that are working together for a more just and sustainable world. It is a work in progress and is intended to capture a moment in time – not a definitive or static model. If you are familiar with theories of change, you may notice that this model differs in some ways from most others. For example, because we were looking at the public engagement sector as a whole, we did not develop specific indicators as part of the model. Instead of guiding specific program planning, we hope this tool can inspire conversations about how our public engagement work collectively leads to social change.
We understand public engagement as a transformational process – one that leads to societal change, rather than a transactional one – one that leads to increased fundraising dollars, or more social media followers. Although transactional engagement may be part of public engagement, this model views that engagement as a small piece – perhaps a starting point – in a larger process of transformational engagement. In order for transformational change to happen, public engagement must create authentic space for citizen and communal participation. As public engagement practitioners, we must also expect that the process will change us, too.
Many theories of change represent that change as a linear process. This model is designed to be understood as dynamic and cyclical. We want to recognize that being engaged is a lifelong process, which it is never complete, and that people’s engagement shifts over time. People jump, or loop, within the cycle from one area to another; there are unique periods of learning, growth, stagnancy and rest within the journey of each individual, organization or society.
This tool will allow public engagement practitioners to see a broad view of the large process of societal change and identify how they fit into the cycle. It is a model where organizations may work exclusively within one or several spheres of change, and that not all organizations need to work at all levels. We believe that important work happens in each circle, and hope that this gives us an opportunity to reflect on how the different approaches of organizations in our sector interact and complement each other – for example, how the work of educating youth connects to organizations that aim at engaging voters in policy-level work. We also hope that this will allow us to uncover assumptions or gaps where our work is failing to connect.
As practitioners work through the model theory of change, we encourage you to use an anti-oppressive lens to think about the design and content of your interventions. Using an anti-oppressive lens means acknowledging differences in power and privilege and working to understand how those differences shape our ideas and relationships.
Practitioners might consider gender, race, class, mental and physical ability, sexual orientation and other aspects of identity in asking questions like:
· Who are your interventions targeting?
· What assumptions are we making about those we are targeting?
· Whose voices do we hear through our engagement?
Also, in the Tool,we have identified questions that practitioners can use as inspiration, but these questions are in no way complete, and each should lead to further questions.