Value, Intervention, belief

Perhaps surprisingly, the definitions of Theory of Change, Intervention and Valued Variable are inter-related. You can’t really understand one without understanding the other two.

Informally, we can say:

If someone has a Theory how doing one thing can influence something else they value, they have a Theory of Change.

We mark a Variable we value with !valued (which is printed as a red smiley). So if this is our Theory, that means we value the outcome it contains and therefore presumably we are planning to “!do” the Intervention.

An outcome we value !valued 

 !do Something we can do

The Mechanism which a Theory of Change reports on is called a Project.

A Theory about how doing X can influence Y can be called someone’s Theory of Change if a) they can do X, b) they value Y and c) they believe the Theory.

Any Variable marked with !do is to be manipulated by some Agent, and this same Agent believes the Theory. We could call this Agent the “Author” of the Theory of Change. Usually the Author is “us”. Under the planned intervention, the Author intervenes to force the Variable to the factual Level rather than the counterfactual Level which it would have had without the intervention.

Valued Variables and intervention Variables in Theorymaker

As we already saw, in Theorymaker, we mark a !do Variable aka an intervention Variable, which is a Variable we can directly influence, with !do (which is printed as a green wedge). We also mark a Variable we value with !valued (which is printed as a red smiley).

Any ordered Variable (an ordinal, numerical or intensity Variable) which is maximised by a person believing a particular Theory of Change is called a valued Variable.

Translation: If the Author knows and believes the Theory of Change and intervenes with such-and-such effects, we can assume that they desire the effect of the intervention according to the Theory of Change.

A valued Variable can be marked with !valued.

So I might randomly or excellently do something and it might have an accidental effect on variables I value, but that doesn’t make it into a plan or project.

A Theory of Change is a Theory about a Project!

But wait - if a Theory is a Theory which reports on any old Mechanism, what does a Theory of Change report on? The answer in Theorymaker is rather neat:

A Project is what a Theory of Change reports on. It is a Mechanism which has an implementing Actor who values certain Variables.