Step Two: Design a Theory of Change

A theory of change (ToC) is a technique that communicates the impacts you must help create to be successful in creating the social change you seek. It explains to you and your stakeholders why and how your initiative expects to have an impact.

To write your ToC, address the following questions:

  • What is the social change you are working towards?
  • What has to happen for this social change to become possible?
  • How will you best contribute to this social change with your initiative?
  • How do you maximise your impact using the resources you have?


The following methods and activities build on the methods in Step 1. They help you identify preconditions for change — what is needed to change for you to reach your ultimate goal. Taken together, they will allow you to develop your own ToC.

Make a clear statement of intent about the change you are seeking

Write down the ultimate change you are working towards. (You can refer back to your Impact Statement here.)  This can be a short statement such as “Reduce discrimination against domestic migrant workers in Malaysia” or it can be a more detailed explanation of the problem you want to address.

Note that the more specific the statement of intent, the more easily that change will be achieved and measured.

Share this statement with a diversity of people. If possible, include people who may disagree or who are simply not engaged. Use this as an opportunity to listen (not convert).

This can be as simple as reading out your goal to someone and asking, “This is the goal of a project I’m doing some research on; I wanted to get your reaction. What do you think of this goal?” Document these responses and share them with your team, affected community and other stakeholders.

Note that this statement can be used as the basis of the Impact Statement.

Create your ToC document

Use this template to make your own ToC.

  • Identify in a sentence or two the social change you are ultimately working toward, or seeking to contribute to.
  • Consider and discuss the changes that need to happen in order for this social change to occur. What kind of environment is needed? You may need to investigate and carry out consultations to complete this.
  • Work from the list of social change types. Try to identify which type of change(s) your project will most likely achieve. (For example, if you are well connected to policy-makers or to mainstream press, you may have a greater advantage in trying to impact policy change.)
  • Once you decide on the type of change you are seeking, you could conduct what is known as a ‘popcorn brainstorm session’, which is done in a group to allow a free and rapid flow of ideas. Preferably you would include community members and key stakeholders, but at the very least you should include as many people who will be involved in your initiative as possible. Spend 5-10 minutes quickly sharing ideas. Have people write their ideas on stickies when they shout them out. It’s important the facilitator stresses there are absolutely no bad ideas and encourages people to think outside the box.
  • After you have a long list of ideas for your video(s) or initiative, cluster ideas together by grouping your sticky notes (or Post-it notes) on the wall. Give each person three votes, which they indicate by making a mark on the sticky note. Tell everyone participating to think from different perspectives, including the point of view of the people you want to reach, those who can take specific action, or those involved in co-creating your initiative. Discuss and refine this list until you have agreement on the ways your initiative will best contribute to change.
  • Your list can now be seen as a first set of ideas. You may wish to follow up with a focus group discussion or get feedback from other stakeholders.
  • Finally, add your video plans into the ‘ToC’ logic document, using the template provided.