Theory of Change Exercise

While there are many things that create tension and lead to lack of trust in coalition work, I think that differing Theories of Change are at the root of a lot of the bumps in the road I’ve come across. That is to say, what do you think is the most strategic path to victory? Or even, what do you think is the most useful short-term response to this crisis?  Generally, people are going to answer such questions based in their instincts for what type of work is most effective.

My personal Theory is that  it’s going to take a lot of different types of work to win, which is perhaps why I love coalition work so much. My answer to the strategy questions above is, “A coalition!” But for other folks it might be, “Media campaign” or “Lobbying” or “A Direct Action!” Of course, I have simplified things, but that’s the idea.

So I think that it is GOOD or at least OK that our different theories of change create tension. Because I think tension makes us smarter and better. But I think that we need to name our different theories of change to make our conflicts and tension more productive and strategic.

I think that different theories of change are at the root of a lot of conflict in coalitions, and it helps me understand the conversation when I understand some of the philosophy at the core of the argument.

Because I think this is important and not sufficiently addressed, I have been wanting an exercise clarifying/discussing theories of change based conflicts in coalitions. There are many products for figuring out your own – from the simple — here is one from BuildingMovement.org — to a whole software program and organization — but not exactly what I’m thinking, if you have any resources!

There are roots of socioeconomics, politics of place, and many other factors that are present when we have that moment of “Hey! I have an AWESOME IDEA that everyone should agree with –wait — why don’t they like it?” When poorly managed, this moment can turn into, “These people are all fools who don’t want to win and don’t respect me.” instead of “What are ways we can use our different perspectives to make us more effective?”

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