What’s a program theory? It’s how you explain that your program or service is going accomplish a goal or outcome. If program A leads to outcome X, how does that happen?
Program theories are often represented using diagrams which show a chain of actions ending in the outcome the program is trying to achieve. Many organizations use either a Logic Model or a Theory of Change to explain their program theory (and there are lots of other options shared here). Having these can be so useful. They can be used:
- to check if everyone is on the same page about how your work is understood and carried out
- to review if there is a sound theory that underpins your work, and help you identify areas where you can focus future learning and evaluation efforts to better understand if the theory holds true
- to examine if your programs align well with your mission (have you been pulled in another direction)
- as a key input at the start of your evaluation
- to bring together all the evidence supporting your program, and identify gaps