Mechanisms – A missing component in your theory of change?
What’s new in theory of change
Our new ten steps to theory of change introduces the concept of ‘mechanisms’. It’s a fairly new idea in a theory of change context, reflecting the feeling that something is missing from the standard theory of change terminology of activities, outputs, outcomes and impact. What’s missing is how we want charitable services or campaigns to be experienced by people, and how we want people to respond so that outcomes and impact are more likely.
We believe this gap can be filled by adding the concept of mechanisms of change, inspired by the realist approach to evaluation, which stresses how contexts interact with mechanisms to achieve outcomes.
The addition of the ‘mechanisms’ is one of the main ways in which our approach to theory of change has developed over the last few years. We have found it helps people to consider important questions and gives a distinct label to factors that are integral to success. Our upcoming full guidance will offer more detail, including the situations where mechanisms are more or less useful and whether to include mechanisms in theory of change diagrams. In the meantime if you have any thoughts on this topic we’d love to hear from you.