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Build Your Theory of Change

Developing a Theory of Change is a good way to reflect on how each piece of your solution works together to drive towards the desired outcome. There are many ways to approach and capture a Theory of Change but the most important thing is that you use the process to articulate and stress test your assumptions about how and why your solution is going to work. Used in this way it becomes a valuable design tool, helping you make tough decisions about which prototypes and concepts to take forward in your final service or product offering.


  1. Start by reviewing the key outcome you’re aiming to achieve. You defined this in your Impact Ladder right at start when framing your design challenge. Is it still the right one or has it evolved through the design journey?
  2. Next, using the Theory of Change worksheet, write out each of the shifts that you are trying to solve for, and then each of the concepts that you are excited about taking forward.
  3. Use Post-it notes if you have them and organize them in a grid structure on a wall or other workspace.
  4. Now you’re going to get critical about your shifts and your concepts. You’ll explore which shifts are a priority to address, and then how well each of your concepts addresses those. The Theory of Change worksheet will steer you through this.
  5. This process will push you to articulate a theory, or rationale, for how your solution will create change and achieve your key outcome. Stand back and interrogate this emerging theory of change. Does the logic for how one thing will lead to another hold up? What assumptions or risks are there at each step? Try having someone outside of your design team join this discussion for a more objective push.
  6. There are many ways to document a theory of change. We suggest that you use the Impact Ladder in the activity guide to quickly capture the output of this activity in the first instance. Then use the Logic Model activity to get to a more detailed and clearly structured visualization of your solution model.

Keep Iterating

Iteration is an important element in human-centered design, and though your solution is now nearly ready to get out into the world, you need to Keep Iterating. What are the ways in which your solution could be just a little bit better?

Can you tweak your communication strategy, maybe you’ll need to evolve your revenue plans, or perhaps your distribution plan needs a tweak. As soon as you get your solution out into the world start to notice what could be better and assess how you can make it so. By continuing to iterate, soliciting feedback, and building those learnings back into your solution you’ll get further and further toward having a huge impact.


  1. Don’t lose sight of the iterative approach that you’ve taken so far. As counterintuitive as it might seem, you’re solution is never truly finished. Even when you’ve gone to market you can always improve it.
  2.  Even if your product, service, or experience is in a good place, think about how you’re marketing it, if you have the right talent on staff, if you could deliver your solution more effectively. These are all opportunities to iterate.
  3.  Rapid Prototypes and Live Prototyping are great opportunities to iterate on the fly and quickly test your ideas in the marketplace.

Staff Your Project

The methodology here is pretty similar to when you built a team in the Inspiration Phase, only this time you’ll want to be far more targeted. Whereas a multi-disciplinary team was great for arriving at unexpected ideas and novel solutions, in the Implementation phase you’ll be looking for specialized know-how, technical capacity, outside partners, and funding. Now might be a good time for some team members to roll off your project and for others to roll on.


  1. Now that you’re planning for launch, determine who are the most essential members of your team for the Implementation Phase. Take a look at the capabilities you identified in your Capabilities Quicksheet and make a list of the most important skills that are required by team members for successful implementation. Then reorder the list based on highest priority.
  2. Take a look at your existing team. Do you have the staff required to deliver new or enhanced services? Do you need a special skill at this point, perhaps a business designer, someone with manufacturing expertise, a healthcare expert? Have you got the measurement expertise you need to deliver on your M&E plan?
  3. Do you need a project manager now that the Inspiration and Ideation Phases are over?
  4. Are there organizations that you now need to partner with? What about funders? Will you have to get buy-in from managers or officials to implement your idea? Make sure you’ve allotted enough time for this in your Roadmap for Success.
  5. Implementation can take a long time, so think down the road about who you’ll need now and who you’ll need when you get to market.

Capabilities Quicksheet

Devising an innovative solution and putting it into practice are two different propositions. This method will help you understand the feasibility of your solution and help you understand where your organization will have to seek help. It makes sense to do this exercise in conjunction with Staff Your Project and Roadmap for Success. Taken as a whole, these three methods will help point you toward the practical implementation of your work.


  1. The main elements of implementation that you’ll want to understand are the distribution of your solution, the partners you might need, and the capabilities necessary to execute. Your latest Business Model Canvas should have some of these answers.
  2. Now put “Distribution,” “Capabilities,” and “Partners” on big sheets of paper and post them. Have a Brainstorm about what needs to happen for each category. List what you’ve already got and what you’ll need. For example, under Distribution, perhaps you need to source, store, and distribute a product to your audience. There are many smaller steps within each of these large categories that should emerge through this Brainstorm.
  3. As you look at all your ideas after the Brainstorm, start to group needs based on actors in the room, and then include a category for needs that are out of the scope of the team. Will you have to form new relationships or can you leverage existing ones? Will you need to manufacture abroad, or can you do it locally?
  4. Look at how you plan to Staff Your Project. Do you need additional or more specialized support after assessing your capabilities? Consider these in your Roadmap for Success which is the next step to move onto.

Create a Pitch

A pitch is a great way to communicate your idea, how it works, why it counts, and who it benefits. And in the process of making it, you’ll clarify the key elements of your idea and refine how you talk about them. A pitch is a primary way that you’ll present your idea, and you’ll be using it to convince different types of people—from banks to potential customers—to rally to your cause.


  1. The first thing you’ll want to articulate is the essence of your product, service, or experience. Offer context, the main thrust of your idea, why it’s different, and any call to action you’re making. Try to succinctly explain it in less than a minute.
  2. You’ll want your pitch to be clear and unambiguous, so don’t get bogged down in the details. Sell your idea by sharing how and why it counts.
  3. Next you’ll want to get that story into some kind of format. It could be a pamphlet, a website, a book, or a presentation. You may need more than one. You may need a graphic designer or writer to help.
  4. You’ll likely communicate differently with different audiences. Make sure you that as you Create a Pitch you think about telling stories of varying lengths and in varying degrees of detail. What are the short, medium, and long versions of your pitch?

Funding Strategy

A Funding Strategy will get you the money you need to get your solution out into the world. It’s best to design a Funding Strategy into your project from the start, though having a great design project can help you raise money along the way. Get any key funding partners together with your design team and Brainstorm the best ways to get your project off the ground. And remember, your Funding Strategy may be different than your ultimate Sustainable Revenue approach so focus on your short-term financial approach here.


  1. Sit down with your design team and key stakeholders and partners and start with a Brainstorm about how you might fund your idea’s launch.
  2. If you need to apply for grants or raise money, determine which relationships you may need to develop to help your chances. Creating a Pitch will be very helpful in raising money.
  3. There are lots of ways to raise money outside of traditional channels. Could a crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter or Indiegogo make sense for your idea?
  4. If you’re planning to pay for everything by selling a product or service, how many will you need to produce beforehand? If your product or service is free, how does that affect your Funding Strategy?
  5. As you plan your Funding Strategy, also look into the near future. When will you need to break even? How do you bridge from your initial strategy to a long term Sustainable Revenue plan.

Keep Getting Feedback

Gathering Feedback from the people you’re designing for is a never-ending process and it’s critical as you push your idea forward. As you run Live Prototypes, Pilot your idea, and determine how to Define Success and Measure and Evaluate your work, you’ll want to have team members dedicated to getting feedback from key partners and the people you’re looking to serve.


  1. As you move into Live Prototyping and Piloting, make sure that you’re collecting feedback. Interviews and Group Interviews are a great way to learn from the people you’re designing for.
  2. Reach out to key partners as well for their input. They’ll often have expertise that the design team may not and can help point the way forward. Convening the right group of stakeholders at once can bring up a lot of feedback in a single session.
  3. Capture feedback in your notebook and share back with the design team. You can do this by Sharing Inspiring Stories.

Have a Sound Business Track!

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