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Redesigning Our Theories of Theories of Change

Jones, Peter (2020) Redesigning Our Theories of Theories of Change. In: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSD9) 2020 Symposium., 9-17 Oct 2020, Ahmedabad, India.

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Abstract

We have all used “theories of change” to argue for the process by which envisioned change programs might achieve their goals, whether we call them so or not. Essentially these are the working theories by which we explain the logic of system change outcomes, and we often include quasi-systemic logic models to communicate them.

ToCs are as ubiquitous in social innovation and philanthropy as business models are in startups and VCs. “Systems change” has emerged as a major movement in the worlds of impact investing, philanthropy, and the NGOs they fund, and the proposals expected to advance studies and change programs embrace the language of the theory of change.

Looking back at the proceedings, I see that RSD has rarely used this language and we do not have many if any, talks dealing with the theory of change. The RSD community has a responsibility to better understand the framing, theory, and proposals entailed in systems change, even if only to better collaborate as designers working with the social change community. I wish to present some enduring research questions for our discussion.

Do Theories of Change reflect a coherent model of change in real social systems? If so, are logic models sufficient (if not corresponding to reality)?
Or are TOCs actually mental models for explaining the preferred causality of desired outcomes? In other words, “systemic storytelling?”
If they serve multiple purposes, why can’t we produce better theories for change through systemic design rationale?
What are the meanings, purposes, effectiveness, basis in systemics, their common applications, uses and misuses of Theories of Change?

Item Type: Conference/Workshop Item (Lecture)
Divisions: Faculty of Design
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Date Deposited: 22 Apr 2022 20:56
Last Modified: 22 Apr 2022 20:56
URI: http://openresearch.ocadu.ca/id/eprint/3599

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