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PhilanthropyU Creating a Theory of Change

Course Schedule

Course Details

  1. Length

  2. Effort

    1-2 hours per week
  3. Certificate

  4. Language


INSTRUCTOREleanor A. Smith

Eleanor A. Smith is Principal of Eleanor A. Smith & Associates, a California-based strategy and evaluation firm. For over 20 years, she has helped foundations and nonprofits clarify--and build consensus on --their intended ultimate impact, surface stakeholders’ assumptions underpinning goals and activities and create appropriate monitoring and evaluation strategies to track progress. She has designed and led Theory of Change planning processes for numerous human services, early childhood education, environmental, and other social sector organizations. She teaches Program Evaluation, Program Development and Strategic Planning at two California universities.

About This Course

You know what your organization does. And, you know how your organization hopes to change the world. But how exactly does each of your activities lead to change? Are you, your teammates, donors, and beneficiaries able to clearly explain and measure this complex process?

Theory of Change is a powerful tool for clarifying how you intend to create and measure change. It’s a foundational strategic process for any organization that hopes to make a measurable impact on the world. Whether you work at a new organization that is just defining its approach or at an established organization trying to improve its programs, Theory of Change can help your team to make better decisions, communicate your approach more clearly, and measure the impact that you are creating.

This course is for senior-level leaders and board members who are ready to improve their organization’s strategy by helping to facilitate a Theory of Change process.

Course Topics

  • Module 1: Understanding Theory of Change
    Identify the components of Theory of Change
  • Module 2: Designing the Process
    Design an inclusive, participatory process for developing a Theory of Change
  • Module 3: Facilitating Theory of Change
    Lead your organization towards essential strategic decisions
  • Module 4: Refining and Implementing your Theory of Change
    Develop graphics and narratives to share your Theory of Change

Who Should Take This Course?

This course is for leaders in mission-driven organizations, particularly senior staff and board members.

You will need a device that allows you to watch to videos, access course materials, and upload your assignments.


The University is a non-degree, diploma or credit granting initiative. Philanthropy U, Inc. is the concept developer and sponsor of the initiative. Learners are not entitled to earn college or other academic credit.

Learners are eligible to receive a Certificate of Achievement for this course. To earn a Certificate of Achievement for this course, you need to earn more than 50% of possible points on quizzes and assignments to obtain a passing grade. Quizzes are worth 15% of your total score, while assignments are worth 85%.

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