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[Link] Why a Theory of Change is better than a Theory of Action for acheiving goals

3 Post author: ete 09 January 2017 01:46PM

Comments (5)

Comment author: MrMind 10 January 2017 08:41:11AM 1 point [-]

I think your "theory of change" is better known as "backward planning" in the mainstream.

Comment author: ChristianKl 10 January 2017 10:06:08AM 1 point [-]

I don't think it's necessarily the same thing.

If you look at Wikileaks theory of change articulated in the papers State and Government Conspiracies and Conspiracy as Governance that's not exact backwards planning. There no specific plan with multiple steps. There a belief that a specific mechanism is a lever that brings change.

My recent write-up for Prediciton-based medicine also articulates a theory of change but traditional backward planning doesn't lead to a framework like this.

If you look at Aaron Schwartz as a result of thinking about his theory of change, he thought that having a good public conversation is important. That lead him to be involved in developing RSS, Markdown and Creative Commons. He was at the head of Reddit. He did also a lot of other influential stuff. His Wikipedia page is a good read: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aaron_Swartz Developing RSS will have many unforseen consequences and it's not necessary to know all steps the way you would in traditional backward planning.

Comment author: moridinamael 09 January 2017 04:30:43PM 1 point [-]

This seems tightly related to the "goal factoring" exercise. You don't really have a plan unless you have a concrete vision of what you're going to do, and your process is robust to as many foreseeable failure modes as possible. And if you have a goal but no plan, then you're not really serious about it.

Comment author: ete 09 January 2017 04:06:42PM 1 point [-]

Many people I talk with profess a strong desire to change the world for the better. This often manifests in their decision processes as something like "out of the life paths and next steps I have categorized as 'things I might do', which one pattern matches to helping best?".

This has for a long time felt like a strategic error of some kind. Reading Aaron Swartz's explanation of Theory of Change vs Theory of Action helped crystallize why.