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Theory of change describes the change you want to make and the steps involved in making that change happen. It also captures the assumptions behind your reasoning, and where possible, provides evidence to back them up. It is enormously helpful as a tool for both strategy and evaluation—and yet most funders do not use it.

Without the kind of strategic thinking it encourages, our concern is that funders could be missing opportunities to identify neglected issues and join up funding with others.

Theory of change frameworks are not for all funders. Further, the benefits will differ depending on how far a funder is able to go in completing one. Some funders are able to draw out a full theory of change, whereas others are only able to complete a partial theory of change.

This report by Angela Kail and Dawn Plimmer, discusses three different types of theories of change, relating to the funder impact on:

  • Beneficiaries
  • Grantees
  • Social problems

The report also discusses the associated benefits of each, how the theory of change should be used, and which types of funders it is useful for.

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