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DIY Engagement Benchmarking Survey Section 1: Theory of Change

Resources for creating a theory of change.

To start off, we're tackling the most basic, most important question for social change organizations -- What is your theory of change?  All of the ways that you work to engage your supporters are a big waste of time if what you're asking them to do doesn't actually have a strong chance of resulting in the outcome that you all want.  Interested in learning more? Here are the theory of change basics:

What is it?

A theory of change is a roadmap, or logic model, which outlines a chain of events starting with your campaign activities or program work that leads, plausibly, to your desired goal.

It has to be believable.

It has to be achievable.

It has to be testable.

Why do you need one?

A theory of change helps you to most efficiently use your resources -- money, staff, political capital, etc. -- to reach your goal.

It allows you to evaluate your assumptions and related strategies and tactics, so you can shift away from what's not working and focus on or expand what is working.

It ensures that staff and campaign/program partners are on the same page about what you're trying to accomplish and how.

What are the risks of working without a theory of change?

Without a theory of change you can actually do harm to your cause. It's like traveling somewhere without a map. Even though you know where you want to end up, if you don't know the path and end up pointed in the wrong direction, going faster only puts you further from your goal.

When you spend your limited social and political capital asking supporters to fund or work on the wrong tactics, you not only waste their money and time, you waste their passion and you lose credibility. You may never get another shot at the resources you've misspent.

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Resources: Section One

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