When it comes to becoming a data driven organisation it can be a daunting task, often appearing like you need a significant amount of time and investment before you see any tangible results. If you are at the beginning of your data journey and as a team don’t know where to put your focus, then perhaps a theory of change can help.
A theory of change is a road map or flow diagram which sets why the activities you are doing will lead to the change you are looking to create in the world. As an organisation, you identify the end state you want your beneficiaries to be in and then work backwards identifying all of the step changes which need to occur for that to happen.
So why can this help you become a data driven organisation?
A theory of change is the first step in doing outstanding impact management. Impact management is the ability to understand, evidence and improve the impact you are having in the world. A study done by Data Evolution found that the biggest difference between non-profit organisations which were data mature and those that weren’t were that data mature organisations used data and analysis to demonstrate their impact.
A theory of change clarifies what data you need to collect. If you and your organisation are looking to start collecting data but don’t know where to start, a theory of change can identify what you are interested in knowing more about, and what data you need to collect and analyse to provide you with the information you need. On the other hand, you might find that you are having the opposite problem. Many of the organisations we work with, collect and store so much data that they don’t use, either because its not helpful or its of poor quality. A theory of change can help you prioritise what means most to you and give you and your staff room to breathe by only collect the data you need.
It encourages engagement from all colleagues. For the majority of people, the words data and analysis don’t exactly spark excitement or enthusiasm. Collecting and analysing data is something most of us know we ‘should’ do but at the same time can feel like tedious and administrative work which is detracting away from our core roles. Starting with a theory of change requires no technical analytical skills and crucially connects data and analytics to the brilliant work you and your team are working so hard to achieve.
You can use a theory of change as a living and breathing document within your organisation which demonstrates how everything connects and works together. All too often, we can be overwhelmed with so many different strategy documents, software, project management tools and excel workbooks that we can lose sight of how they relate and work together. A theory of change can be a powerful document which demonstrates how some or all of the following pieces are working together to create change:
- – Fundraising and fundraising metrics
- – Performance management
- – Project management and monitoring
- – Impact evaluation
Becoming a more data driven organisation, can be an incredibly challenging venture. It can be difficult to know where to start, and which actions to prioritise. A Theory of Change can be a powerful first step in becoming an organisation which is evidence based and powered by data. Not only can help motivate and empower your staff, but also support you in understanding what data you need to collect to support your impact management and other activities within your organisation.