Project Everest

ToC (Theory of Change)

Jessica Stephanie Arvela
Jessica Stephanie Arvela | Jan 27, 2017 | in Ideas Box

During January Project - Alex Piatek created an activity to introduce Impact Assessment to teams through the ToC - the following is Alex's method.



Students have shown difficulty initially understanding why and how the Impact assessment is vital with the work that is conducted in country. One solution to this was to attempt an impact assessment using the Pomodoro technique and one impact assessment tool. The impact assessment tool used was the Theory of Change (ToC). The activity is called the Impact Pomodoro Session (IPS, very witty I know, open for suggestions).

Using the method of activity, you are sparking the problem-solving skills required to finding patterns in the information through their own investigation and analysis. The IPS is used to spark thoughts about the impact the their current project is creating in country.

The Theory of Change is essentially a foundation Impact tool which backward maps out the ‘missing middle’ section from the project's long term goals down to the activities the project is currently conducting. The Theory of Change does get messy due to mapping out all the necessary pre conditions of the long term goal which aren’t all initially visible. The Theory of Change is easiest using a methodical approach, however, don’t expect to answer all the steps in a short period of time, it is a tool that is ongoing and will adapt to your business model.

The Pomodoro Technique is used to put the student under pressure with the use of time. The Pomodoro Technique holds you accountable for a specific task which is discussed with everyone when the timer finishes.

Collaborating the teams whilst conducting the IPS will help build insights and ultimately be more productive. Teams will have common activities (e.g. engaging the community via interviews) along the timeline of their projects, which is why collaborating will identify trends in the impact assessment which another project may have not picked up on.


  • Pomodoro timer - you can download an app or use an online timer called Tomato Timer
  • Theory of Change Development Steps - image of steps provided in the appendix below or follow the link in the footnote to acquire an extensive ‘Theory of Change Tool Manual’.
  • A laptop - viewing documents
  • Pen and Paper
  • Headphones (optional - for Pomodoro if you are productive listening to music whilst working)
  • A group of trekkers/leaders (2 - 4 people for individual work or 4-10 people for paired work)


  1. Identify who is participating. Try to aim to get at least one person from each project. If the IPS is for individual work (one person from each team), Pomodoro will operate with complete silence between all participants. If the IPS is for paired work, the Pomodoro will operate with silence between pairs but within the pairs the individuals can collaborate and communicate.

  2. Set up a controlled work space, preferably a separate table, where everyone outside of the workspace can not disturb anyone at the table. [insert picture]

  3. Make sure everyone has a pen, paper (approx. 5 A4 sheets) for writing the impact assessment (or they can type if they are more efficient with their laptop) and a separate piece of paper for idea dumps, a laptop with an internet connection.

  4. When everyone is ready, explain what the Theory of Change is. Could get the trekkers to read a short article on ToC as well. Be aware they may still be in confusion before you start the activity.

  5. Explain to the group that the IPS is about to start and it will run for 25 minutes (Pomodoro session), following with a 8 minute discussion for each individual/team. So four impact assessments will result in a 32 minute discussion. Strict timings were introduced for participants attention.

  6. Get everyone to have the ‘Theory of Change Development Steps’ visible on their laptop for the entirety of this activity and explain the structure of the tool. Every participant starts from the ‘Mission’ box and writes the aims and values of their project and follows the steps from there. It is important to clarify that they can revert back to a previous step, this tool will trigger plenty of pathways from the long term goal down to the activities that are being performed currently. Also from experience, the more effort that is put into Step 5 ‘Who/what will be impacted?’ the more pathways that will identified thus greater coverage with assessing the impact.

  7. The Pomodoro timer starts now, make sure you turn the volume up so everyone with headphones on will be able to hear the timer finish.

  8. Every participant follow the steps until the timer runs out.

  9. Once the timer finishes, get someone to read through their assessment. Read the step question, then read the answer quickly. Encourage all participants to write ideas/thoughts onto their assessment whilst the assessment is being read.

  10. Provide feedback and ask if anyone has feedback.

  11. All participants record results in a document on the drive and the trekker accountable for the impact assessment shall summarise and insert it into the impact assessment detailed template.



170111 ToC Overview of Steps 01 AP.PNG



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edited on 27th January 2017, 12:01 by Jessica Stephanie Arvela

Jessica Stephanie Arvela Feb 3, 2017

Heads up: wearing your PE shirt and ensuring good first impressions is not adequate for an assessment - these elements are expected in normal human interaction and does not dictate future project developments. These assessments are to identify changes that need to be made to ensure success - not to arbitrarily list out things that need to be adhered to in standard business procedure.

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