Where are you today? Are you on a specific path to a specific destination or are you on the road that leads somewhere, anywhere, nowhere? Do you actually know where you are going? Yes your dreams are valid but are you doing anything to actualize those valid dreams? How will you know when you get “there”? Are you so busy trying to achieve your dream that you won’t know when you actually achieve it?
The Theory of Change (ToC) as I am learning, is defined as a pathway or a process of activities that need to happen for one to achieve a certain goal. It’s a nice lesson to learn at the beginning of the year before my new year resolution becomes remembering what they were in the first place. The Theory of Change has made me ask a lot of questions and not just about my work but also about my personal life.
This Theory of Change demands that I dash to finish line before I even start the race. It demands that I “see” the home before I even the building starts. I have to see everything that is happening right now with the end in mind. I cannot be too caught up with sideshows and present delights. I am on a journey; a return trip. My Theory of Change malfunctions when I stall.
Life has a way of distracting us. It has a way of whispering misleading sentiments and blurring our vision. Sadly, we are often derailed too quickly. We give up as soon as the first huddle shows up. We quit the race because the pace setter was too fast. The moment discomfort and pain checked in, we checked out. We lost sight of our goal.
As my instructor would put it, the Theory of Change basically means; End first, then work backwards asking yourself, how do I get “there”? Is this getting me “there”? Am I still headed “there”? Why am I not “there” yet? What do I need to change to get “there”? Who do I need to get me “there”? Who is already “there” that can help me get “there”? Am I closer “there” today than I was last year? Have I forgotten where “there” is?
Wouldn’t it be nice if our schools had a definite Theory of Change? That from the time we first entered a classroom we knew where we were going, how we were to get there and what would get us there. The subjects we chose, the sports we played, the extra curricula activities we engaged in etc. For me, my school life felt as if the only place that I needed to go was “Number one”. No matter how hard I tried, I never got there and so I resigned quite early, to the fact that I would never get “there”.
How I wish “they” told me that was not the goal of going to school. I left school never having come close to “there” (Number one). Unfortunately, my parents never saw or validated my other strengths; the people skills I had or the interest in certain sports. They never saw how organized I was or creative. They did not see how I loved interacting with people or how I loved helping around the house and making people laugh. They just saw how far from “there” (Number one) I was. So I too ignored “all that unimportant stuff”.
In an attempt to motivate me, my parents used comparisons, and “why can’t you be like so and so’s”). So I grew up envious of other peoples “there” while mine was left unexplored. Eventually, I quit trying, I was called hard headed and stubborn and lazy. Teachers who were meant to help me discover my “there” unfortunately didn’t know any better.
If only someone had taught me The Theory of Change; knowing what I want and then working my way FROM there. I would never have compared myself to another soul. I would have celebrated being me. I would have easily identified activities that would lead me to “my there” and not “everyones there”.
Our country has suffered a lot from “the lack of Theory of Change condition”. Look at our leaders. It seems as if for them, “their there” is the particular office they currently occupy and not service delivery to the people. Look at our etiquette on the roads or our conversations on social media. We don’t care about the consequences of our actions. Our cultures have not taught us to value our “individual theres” while still working towards a “common there”. As a result intolerance among communities continues to thrive.
As we discover and explore our individual Theories of Change, a greater need exists for the President and all the other leaders to not only formulate, but also role model a common Theory of Change. Every government should make known to its citizens where the country will be in five years. The oppositions work shouldn’t be to oppose government, but to keep the government in check based on the goals it set for the country and to ensure that its stays on track. Our school curriculum should be evaluated to see if it provides a clear Theory of Change for students.
You and I have our individual Theories of Change but we should also in our own way implement our share of the governments Theory of Change. If we buy into the country’s overall Theory of Change, we will keep ourselves in check and we will ensure areas that are under our influence are at par with the National Theory of Change. This way, it won’t be long before vices like negative ethnicity, corruption and insecurity become a thing of the past.
What is your Theory of Change? Do you know your goal and are the activities you are involved in now helping you to get “there” – to your goal?