The steps for building a Theory of Change for your program are similar to those needed to build one for a community change initiative. However, the single largest difference is the number of stakeholders that will need to be engaged in the process. Involving stakeholders in the process of building a theory of change is crucial for several reasons. It helps ensure that diverse perspectives are considered, increases the accuracy and relevance of the theory, and fosters ownership and commitment among stakeholders.

This blog shares some insights into how Partners for Impact built the Theory of Change for the Mecklenburg County Health Departments Community Health Worker Initiative. These insights can be adapted for other community change initiatives. The Project Coordinator provided a thorough background of the project and identified key stakeholders that were interviewed and/or participated in focus group conversations. Engaging stakeholders in the development of a theory of change not only provides input into the evaluation process, it has the potential to create more ownership in the implementation of the project. Time was spent with the stakeholders in understanding their perspectives and desires for the project. We solicited their own ideas for strategies that might support Community Health Workers as they challenge inequities in the health care system. 

A draft theory of change was created and then shared with the team facilitating the initiative and providing technical assistance, the Queen City Community Connect Coalition, and the Stakeholder Advisory Collaborative (you can read more about these groups on the Partners for Impact website). These group sessions with stakeholders helped analyze the context, identify outcomes, and map causal pathways. We created a safe and inclusive space for participants to share their perspectives, challenge assumptions, and build consensus. With this feedback, the theory of change was modified. This final draft was then presented to the first network meeting that was held in May of 2023. This was the first time all stakeholders were in the same room. 

With all the stakeholders in one room, we encouraged dialogue amongst the stakeholders to begin generating strategies that can be used to achieve the outcomes identified in the theory of change. Participants in the network meeting brainstormed at group tables, discussed ideas and then shared these ideas with others.The theory of change did not require any specific changes. The strategies emerging from the conversation will form the basis of a comprehensive plan that the Mecklenburg County Health Department Community Health Worker Initiative can implement