Illustrating Models and Theories of Change

The research and evaluation worlds are filled with boxes and arrows.  The models that are built this way become central to how projects are imagined and evaluated.

As an exercise in program design or research design, I think your everyday box and arrow type of model is fine.  But when it comes time to disseminate, and you start sharing your model with people who were not there when it was built, it becomes very little more than a collection of boxes, arrows, and sentence fragments.

I found the best way to help share a model is through a redesign.

Your everyday box and arrow model visualization.

I found the following theory of change depiction in a UNICEF methodological brief (PDF) written by Patricia Rogers.  Let’s redesign the example theory of change format into something that we can disseminate to non-evaluators without paragraphs of support text.

Storify the model.

The first step in the redesign is to turn your model into a story.  Instead of using boxes with single words or fragments, let’s use narrative sentences.  Or in this case, questions.

Our goal is to turn the model into something that you can read and understand without a lot of additional context.  And, while we are at it, let’s remove the boxes.  The sentences define the space well enough and we can visually highlight the most important piece in each.

Icon illustrate the Story

Now we have a story that can be read.  But there is still more we can do to make it easier to understand for a broader audience.

My favorite thing to do is to go through and illustrate each sentence with a simple icon.  This kind of simple illustration can completely change the way a model is read.

Have a model you want storified and illustrated?

Get in touch and let me show you what I can do.