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)


  • 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.


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