Theory Behind The Work


There are good reasons to articulate the theory underlying racial equity work. The process helps groups surface differing assumptions about how change happens, including how privilege and systemic and individual levels of racism might be playing out.  This offers opportunity to reconcile differences or to build in different assumptions to the evaluation.  The process can also point out gaps or redundancies in strategies.  The resulting picture also can serve as a communication tool, making it easier for others to see where their interests do or do not align with the intended strategies and goals. All of those benefits serve the work, as well as evaluation.

At the same time, while it is always useful to get clear about intentions for racial equity work, it is not always possible to specify in advance how that work will unfold, or what it will accomplish at various points in time. Much of the work being done to promote racial equity falls into the category of adaptive change (as described by Heifitz in Leadership Without Easy Answers, and others) – that is, where the goal is fairly well known, but the steps to get there are not. In those instances, it may not make sense to try to anticipate particular short, intermediate and long-term outcomes for a logic model, and it may not even be useful to expend effort on more than the most top-level or broad theory of change. In such a situation, it may be more important to invest deeply in a process among stakeholders to focus the work in other ways. (SEE Deciding on the Focus of Evaluation at This Time, and Communicating for Racial Justice) In those instances, one can also do other kinds of evaluations (rather than logic model or theory of change driven evaluation) such as ethnography or story-gathering, to see what happens, understand why, and extract lessons.

Please also see TIP SHEETS: What is a Theory of Change and What is a Logic Model, Why Develop Logic Models and Theories of Change?, What are Strategies and How Are They Related to Activities or Programs and What Special Factors Should a Theory of Change that Addresses Racism Include.




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