Theory of Change
Theory of change is a tool that describes how change occurs and how organizations can work to connect partners, make strategic choices, influence outcomes, and assess the impact of their efforts. As a grantmaker, theories of change help us to understand which projects are likeliest to succeed.
A theory of change is just that – a theory. It’s our “best guess” based on experience, research, and input from grantees and partners. As we test our models and learn more about the systems we want to make change in, we expect that our theories will adapt.
All of these pieces – our impact model, strategic priorities, and assessment framework – are a work in progress. If you have questions or would like to provide feedback, please contact Leanne Sexsmith, Grants Program Manager.
The Real Estate Foundation has an overall theory of change which influences our strategic planning, grantmaking, investment strategy, special projects, and communications efforts. Our overall theory includes two components: an impact model and strategic priorities.
To evaluate our progress, we’ve developed an assessment framework to measure our progress and inform changes to our strategy.
Our impact model illustrates the ways our team works and the logic behind the choices we make. The model describes:
- Our assets (people, money, time, experience), which fuel our work.
- Activities we can choose (granting, projects, investments) in our mandate areas (research, education, policy reform) that are related to land use and real estate.
- Decision frameworks (theories of change, effectiveness criteria, strategic interventions) we rely on to make informed choices.
- Outcome areas that show the immediate impact of our work in:
- Engagement and collaboration
- Innovation and implementation
- Governance and leadership
- Our vision for the overall change we are working towards
The Foundation works to create change in five interest areas:
- Sustainable Land Use
- Built Environment Sustainability
- Freshwater Sustainability
- Local and Sustainable Food Systems
- Professional Excellence in Real Estate
For each of these interest areas, we’ve identified more specific goals, desired impacts, and strategic interventions that can influence change.
REFBC’s strategic priorities are described in greater detail in “Appendix A” of our Impact Guide.
Based on our overall impact model and theories of change, REFBC has developed a draft assessment framework and process to measure, evaluate, and report out on our grant-funded projects (activities, progress, and impacts).
Impact assessment is challenging and complex. As we develop our framework, we want to keep our process doable, flexible, and collaborative. We aim to gather meaningful information about the projects we fund and to communicate that information in a way that’s transparent and focused on learning.
Our draft evaluation framework is structured to identify indicators, measures, and methods of reporting out for three areas of our impact model:
- Overall project activities, interest areas, funding investments
- Desired impacts and strategic interventions
- Outcome areas
REFBC’s assessment framework is described in greater detail in our Impact Guide, which will be posted in 2018.