Mr. Latif instructed our LLSP class on the theory of change (“TOC”), and how each of us can develop a TOC that is useful for running organizations, as well as for our personal lives. Sometimes, when people ask us why we do things a certain way, we sometimes realize that we do it because that has always been the way things have been done before. Reflecting on and developing a theory of change can help us refocus our goals and avoid stagnancy.
A theory of change, according to Mr. Latif, is a short term step and one’s achievable goal that can take you or your organization to where you want to get. He gave the class an example of a homeless shelter, whose theory of change is that by gaining the dignity of sleeping under a roof like most other people, homeless people will eventually be motivated to get back on their feet by tackling the root causes of their homelessness. Mr. Latif laid out the five steps for developing either a personal or institutional theory of change: 1) Identify a target beneficiary (make it narrow enough so that it can be reached in through realistic means); 2) identify the issue we are trying to solve; 3) describe what your end state looks like, how success looks like for your target beneficiary; 4) describe how your intervention, or your methodology in solving the issue, looks like; and 5) estimate how many people will benefit from your work.
After walking through the steps of creating a TOC, he had participants create their own TOCs, for either themselves or the organizations with which they work. Some participants volunteered to read theirs aloud, and Mr. Latif guided the class into commenting on each participant’s take on the five steps for developing a TOC. He offered the participants many tips to improve their TOC. For example, he pointed out that our methodologies must be culturally sensitive to the type of beneficiary we serve. Moreover, we must resist the temptation to tackle too many issues and devise too many speculative solutions.
Mr. Latif concluded by explaining that a TOC, unlike a vision or a mission, defines a short-term step that can help immediately refocus our priorities and goals. The LLSP class gained a very useful practical skill from Mr. Latif’s lecture, which will help them in their nonprofit endeavors and in their future careers as leaders.