Theory of Change

The Theory of Change is a measurable description of a societal-level change, which provides the basis for strategic planning, decision making, and evaluation. I applied the Theory of Change to art museums to better understand the priorities of these complex organizations:

  • Who is the population?
    • Art goers; families; individuals of all ages; schools and students.
  • What are the intended outcomes?
    • To promote the artwork and exhibitions within the museum; to educate and inspire the population; give back to the community through programming
  • How will the outcomes affect the population?
    • When customers have a positive experience at the museum, they are more likely to return or be impacted by the exhibits
  • How will the population effects be measured over time?
    • Customer return rate; revenue; net income
This is an example of a theory of change structure used at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History.

The Logic Model is a tool used to link organizational resources, activities, desired impacts, and hopes of achievement. I applied the Logic Model to art museums:

  • What outputs, and how many need to be generated to reach those outcomes?
    • Number of visitors, participants, or people served; tickets sold; contributions given to the museum
    • The number of visitors needed and amount of contributions given per year to generate a positive net income varies for every museum depending on their size and budget
  • What activities are required to generate those outputs? What is the production process?
    • Choosing collections and pieces of artwork to be exhibited; marketing and advertising; public programming; a skilled development team
  • What inputs will those activities consume? How will they be obtained?
    • Artwork; individuals; merchandise; food and beverages

A Business Model is a plan for an organization to make a profit. I applied the Business Model to art museums to understand financial planning strategies:

  • Who are the consumers or clients that experience the outputs?
    • Art goers and individuals of all ages; participants in programming activities; individuals and programs benefiting from contributions
  • Who are the customers who pay for the services? Are they the same as the consumers?
    • Customers are the same as the consumers, but can also be donors or members
  • What is the customer value proposition that persuades customers to pay for services?
    • A need or want to consume or view artwork; be educated on the art; art lovers wanting to donate money or have a membership with a museum
  • What is the operating scale to reach sustainable profitability?
    • Revenue, including ticket sales and donations, must be greater than or equal to expenses

Performance Measurements help track the progress of organizations. To track the progress of art museums, I focused on these two key questions:

  • How are individual activities and programs measured for performance?
    • Surveys; word of mouth; reviews; reputation; customer retention rate
  • How are organizations evaluated for overall effectiveness?
    • Reputation; making a difference or impact in the community


Simon, Nina. “Developing a Theory of Change, Part 1: A Logical Process.” Museum 2.0,