The ‘theory of change’ and sticking to your vision

Everyone is a change-maker
Vision. Motivation. Commitment. We all capture adopt these traits – whether you’re dreaming big to start something new, or even just planning to make a small change in a habit. To any scale, making a change requires a bit of thought and drive.

Bogged down in the thinking

Getting out of your head could possibly be harder than this guy’s day. Source: creative commons

I’ve mentioned in a number of my previous blogs about the team I’m working with to attempt to reduce the plastic cutlery used at our university campus. The idea originally arose from an assignment at the beginning of the year, however, the more we discussed the idea, it seemed to be a ​personal interest in reducing waste that drove us forward. The project has involved interviews with shop owners and sustainability officers on campus, student surveys, data collections, and our trials. The trails are where we have offered student and staff the opportunity to choose​ a reusable fork/knife/spoon over the plastics. These efforts have happened over the last 10 weeks, which doesn’t seem to be much action in such a large space of time. Through reflection, I think our lack of effort has come down to the confusion between the change we aspire to make, and the goals of the assignment.

The Theory of Change
So the problem for some of us is that we spend too long inside of our heads, thinking about the what if’s, which, is ultimately prolonging progress. What groups need to sustain their projects in reflection of their vision is good theories of change. This framework involves a team carrying out regular evaluations to maintain constant improvement and time efficiency​. Working in my said project, we have had success with parts of the framework, but haven’t adopted it to our full vision. Constant evaluation had it’s benefits in adapting our actions to the context, jump the barriers that arose. Also, our planning to sequence required task outcomes was done well. As we didn’t adopt all elements of the framework, there were significant gaps in our idea of purpose, therefore when plans changed, I believe our team had no vision of where to turn to next.

Sustaining change
To sustain change, we’re aiming for indefinite productivity. The final step is to embed the change in the culture. If it’s a small personal change, say learning a new skill, spaced repetion is highly effective at reinforcing the new concept. However, for the big dreamers, embedding change into a culture is on a much larger scale, reliant on many players. Spaced repetition could be something you are presenting to people out of their control, to gradually and effectively influence the change.

It’s that vision that influences the planning of strong goals and outcomes. It’s the motivation that propels you over possible barriers. It’s the commitment that delivers progress through the theory of change framework. Then it’s the quality of what follows that sustains your work in the future.


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