Theories of change and the vision of the Great Transition

Any organisation or activist network that designs a campaign or a movement strategy uses a theory of change, be it implicitly or explicitly. Theories of change are the ideas and hypotheses (theories) people and organisations have about how change happens. These theories are based on assumptions about reality, what is at stake, and how change can be brought about.

Different theories of change and different visions can be in conflict with each other, and the assumptions behind our visions and theories of change might not stand up to scrutiny. It is therefore important to understand our theories of change and the assumptions they are based upon.

One of the aims of the Pathways to the Great Transition project is to provide an impulse to emerging discussions about systems change / the Great Transition, using the most recent critical reflections on discourse and theories of change.

At our workshop in Barcelona in 2016, we asked questions and used participatory methods to start painting a picture about the commonalities and differences between participants’ theories of change and visions for a sustainable and just future.

This short paper summarises the most interesting parts of the discussions and highlights where some of the tensions might lie. We would like to explore these and other questions in more depth over the course of Pathways to the Great Transition.

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