Dk impactmethods theoryofchange

Explore Your Theory of Change

Articulate and interrogate your assumptions about how your solution will create positive change



Suggested Time

120 Minutes

Level of Difficulty


Materials Needed

Impact Ladder, Ecosystem Map, Post-its of different colors (red, orange, green ideally), pens, flipchart or board


Design team, extra facilitator

Process Phase

Developing a Theory of Change is a good way to reflect on how each piece of your solution works together to drive towards the desired outcome. There are many ways to approach and capture a Theory of Change but the most important thing is that you use the process to articulate and stress test your assumptions about how and why your solution is going to work. Used in this way it becomes a valuable design tool, helping you make tough decisions about which prototypes and concepts to take forward in your final service or product offering. Have your Impact Ladder worksheet and Ecosystem Mapping worksheet handy, as you’ll reference those here.


  1. Start by reviewing the key outcome you’re aiming to achieve. You defined this in your Impact Ladder right at start when framing your design challenge. Is it still the right one or has it evolved through the design journey?
  2. Next, using the Theory of Change worksheet, write out each of the shifts that you are trying to solve for, and then each of the concepts that you are excited about taking forward. Use Post-it notes if you have them and organize them in a grid structure on a wall or other workspace.
  3. Now you’re going to get critical about your shifts and your concepts. You’ll explore which shifts are a priority to address, and then how well each of your concepts addresses those. The Theory of Change worksheet will steer you through this.
  4. This process will push you to articulate a theory, or rationale, for how your solution will create change and achieve your key outcome (from Step 1 above). Stand back and interrogate this emerging theory of change. Does the logic for how one thing will lead to another hold up? What assumptions or risks are there at each step? Try having someone outside of your design team join this discussion for a more objective push.
  5. There are many ways to document a theory of change. We suggest that you use the Impact Ladder in the activity guide to quickly capture the output of this activity in the first instance. Then use the Logic Model activity to get to a more detailed and clearly structured visualization of your solution model.