Times, They are a Changin’ (or: BaKiNg tHe CaKe)

Spent a good portion of last week in a workshop to revise our Theory of Change. I had never heard of a Theory of Change until I came to Blue Engine, but I wish more people talked about them. Our Portfolio Manager (who is leaving us for an even more kick-ass position with the Innocence Project; we’ll miss her) describes a Theory of Change as a recipe for baking a cake (this gets weird when you talk about adding students and teachers to “your cake”. But I digress).

In more technical terms, a Theory of Change maps:

  • inputs (the staff and resources you put into your program)
  • activities (what you do)

to

  • short-term outcomes (the changes you hope to see during your program)
  • intermediate outcomes (the change you hope to see on the last day of your program)
  • long-term outcomes (the lasting change you hope to see)

The idea (as I understand it) is that the Theory of Change helps you focus your energy on resources on what actually drives your program and also helps you manage all the parts that go into an organization. We publish our theory of change on our website and I think it’s a great idea for organizations to publish them for accountability and to promote the very idea of strategic thinking rather than mere good intentions. Like I said, I had never heard of a Theory of Change until 2 years ago and yet, this is the thing that drives our entire organization.

Ours is still very much in process (I’m typing up the notes today, along with reconciling this month’s bank accounts – separate story), but I’m quite excited to see how it comes out (lemon filling with vanilla frosting?) and even more excited to see it implemented.

Theory_image
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The Glue Guy

Scene: A Jersey Diner, 11am, Saturday morning, St. Paddy’s Day (irrelevant, sort of)

I’m hanging out with Roommate and Roommate’s parents. Roommate works at an awesome startup. He gets his parents up to date on what he’s been doing. Roommate’s parents (who I’m meeting for the first time, post-5K morning run) ask what I do, to which I hem and haw and then reply, “I do operations and logistics for an education nonprofit.” Followed by: “which means a lot of things.” Followed by: “I don’t really know how to describe that.”

Roommate, who used to work in operations says something to the effect of: “We’re glue guys. We hold things together.” Not in the arrogant sense, but in the sense that you’ve got your mitts in so many pots, all over the place and it’s impossible to describe all of these little things that you do and obsess over without going into the level of detail that makes people’s eyes glaze over. I’m somewhat planning to use this description whenever someone asks me what I do. (Note: he was much more inspiring than that, but I had woken up early and forgot to order coffee after the race)

Side note: Small town Jersey (Trees. Community feel. Easy access to the main street.) makes me nostalgic. Riding the St. Paddy’s Day train back into the city with drunken youngin’s does not.

“We’re glue guys. We hold things together.”

Glue