Theory of Change

Tamra d'Estrée

Conflict Resolution Program, University of Denver

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

I think that probably practitioners don't often think enough about beyond just what kind of changes they want to see in the participants.

Rather they think about what are the subsequent ripples of change that we're working for that we might need to plant the seeds for in the training or the workshop. It's not enough then to just say we want to change attitudes or give some new skills. We have to consciously think about what the new attitudes or the new skills are going to translate into in terms of how those individuals will then change. Referring to at least some larger sector of their reality with the question being, how are they going to do that? So we really have to have some sort of vision of what that's going to look like, of a theory of change.

I guess you wanted to know my recommendation. Many people enter into these approaches and assume first of all that changing attitudes, changing beliefs is where they should focus. My advice would be to consider what is important to change beyond just attitudes, and how you might see how changes in attitudes and skills, which might then produce some sort of other local change in that participant's environment. Then you can somehow in your planning think through how you can facilitate that next level of change as well. It's being clearer and being thoughtful. If you go into an intervention and haven't thought through the larger theory of change and you expect individual level change to link up with local and system change then you're only going to get individual change. You're not going to get change at the next levels except by accident. An important thing for interveners to think through on the front end is actually structuring the intervention consciously so that attention is being given and time is being given to not only having experiences that change individuals' attitudes and give them new skills, but also allow them to think about how this will translate into the next level of change.