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Using Theory of Change to help a women’s health advocate achieve its goals

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Women’s Health Victoria (WHV) is a not-for-profit organisation committed to women’s health promotion, advocacy and support services. It has more than 35 staff and more than $3 million in annual revenue.

A strategic plan needed support to be achieved

WHV had an ambitious five-year strategic plan that identified five priorities: sexual and reproductive health, prevention of violence against women, women and cancer, women’s mental health and body image, and women’s equality. WHV sought Nous’ support to turn this strategic plan into reality, accessing discounted consulting services through our Community Partnership Scheme.

We developed a Theory of Change and tools to achieve it

Delivering the strategic plan required a step change in the way Women’s Health Victoria operated. To achieve this shift, Nous worked with WHV to develop and activate a Theory of Change – a story of how and why a desired change will result from an organisation’s activities.

We worked with WHV to develop three tools:

  1. Theory of Change. This emerged from discussions with the WHV board and staff, a survey of stakeholders and a focus group. For each of the five priorities, we worked with participants to explore the desired 15 year outcome; the societal changes needed to get there; and activities to start, stop and scale up to achieve it.
  2. Prioritisation framework. This will serve as a guide for the board, executive and managers to decide what activities to pursue. These decisions can be made using a scorecard tool, a matrix tool or a heatmap tool.
  3. Evaluation framework. This supports WHV to assess its contribution to the overall vision of women living healthy, empowered and equal. Given the challenge of attributing social change to a cause, it involves both direct and plausible contributions to change. The evaluation framework is a living document that stems from a workshop-refined draft and will evolve as WHV’s plans evolve.

Tools are helping WHV deliver its long-term ambitions

The three tools were presented to the board and are now being put into operation. They will support WHV as it works toward its 15-year ambition of women experiencing optimal sexual and reproductive health, being free from domestic violence, having access to gender-sensitive support during cancer, having a positive relationship with their bodies, and participating equally in all aspects of life.

What you can learn from Women’s Health Victoria

The Theory of Change can be a powerful means to achieve consensus on long-term goals and the pathway to achieving them.

Frameworks to establish priorities and evaluate performance are essential to establishing rigour around strategic decisions.

It is vital to engage with stakeholders in a way that allows them to speak honestly about their hopes and concerns.