Open Uni approach

The Open University (OU) defines the Theory of Change as “a tool that helps explain the relationship between a development problem being addressed and the strategies used to address it, showing why and how change takes place.”

The OU also states that this “can come in many different formats, but commonly involves a diagram containing boxes and arrows laid out to show how elements fit together, and why this arrangement should work.”

The Open University suggests that you follow the relevant Open University module and make use of the relevant Theory of Change Template. It requires you to identify answers to each of the headings in the template below:

Problem to be solvedKey audienceEntry Point for reaching audienceSteps needed to effect changeMeasurable effect of your workWider benefits of your workLong term changes you see as your goal

At every stage, you should identify your key assumptions. According to the Open University:

  • Assumptions help to explain the Theory of Change process and the connections between the measurable effects, wider benefits and the longer-term goal, as well as how and why proposed activities are expected to bring these changes about.
  • Assumptions that turn out to be incorrect can lead to mistakes. It is therefore very important in developing a Theory of Change that you identify, analyse and challenge assumptions with your stakeholders. This will lead to increased understanding and a process of refining both assumptions and other elements of the theoretical framework.
  • The ToC developed by the Open University is based on the logic is that if, for example, women are more aware of the benefits of delivering their babies in healthcare facilities, and if health workers are better trained and have better equipment, then more women receive specialist care, which contributes to a reduction in maternal mortality.

Click here to return to the top of the page and here to explore the Nesta DIY template.