“For-each Time” Variables

Number of helpline calls answered   !for-each night

 Number of helpline staff available   !for-each night

The above Theory explicitly mentions two sets of Variables containing data for each night over many nights. We have already met “for-each” Variables; Theorymaker native speakers sometimes refer casually to for-each Variables as if they were individual Variables, even though they are really sets of similar Variables, differing only in one feature. “For-each time” Variables are sets of similar Variables which differ only in their time point.

If we were going to try to record this little Mechanism, it would generate a lot of data.

The above example is subtly different from the kinds of timeless examples we have met so far in this book:

Number of helpline calls answered in any evening

 Number of helpline staff available in any evening

That simpler form is more like a general rule which applies at any particular time. It doesn’t matter if it applies many times or even only once.

Projects and programmes often mix one-off Variables (like a launch event or the parliamentary debate on a law), Variables which are repeated at discrete intervals, such as a series of training events, and Variables which range over continuous time. Often, these are not clearly distinguished in a Theory of Change. Theorymaker has some simple abbreviations for these:

Number of people attending opening event of Olympics 2024, Time=__^

 Initial media events, Time=^^_

 Social media buzz about the Olympics, Time=~~~

  Number and visibility of celebrities attending pre-launch event in 2023, Time=^__

  Initial social media activities, Time=~~_

  Initial media events, Time=^^_

Explanation:

  • Time=__^ says that this is a single one-off event (^) which comes around the end of the project and which is not defined in the preceding period __.
  • Time=^__ says that this is a single one-off event (^) which comes around the beginning of the project and which is not defined in the period __ which follows it.
  • Time=~~~ says that this is a for-each time Variable which stretches continuously in Time through the entire period.
  • Time=~~_ says that this is a for-each time Variable which stretches continuously in Time for most of the project but not in the final period.
  • Time=^^_ says that this is a for-each time Variable which is defined a small number of discrete times in the first part of the project but not in the final period.

These symbols ~ ^ and - are easily typed and meant to give a quick impression, at a glance, of what happens when in a project or programme. For a more complicated project with many phases, Theorymaker native speakers sometimes use longer chains of symbols. So for a six-year project might show the input of an annual workshop like this: ^_^_^_^_^_^_.