Theory Maker

This free and open-sourced web-based tool was made by Steve Powell as a quick and simple way of creating a theory of change. 

The information provided was supplied by Steve Powell. 

Authors and their affiliation

Steve Powell, proMENTE social research, Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Year of publication 

2016

Type of resource

Tool

Key features

Theory Maker is a free web app for making diagrams of theories of change, logframes, etc.

You make the diagrams just by typing the names of the elements (called variables) in a structured way into a (resizeable) window, and you get a live diagram as output which reflects what you type.

You don't have to fiddle about with dragging boxes and connectors around; Theory Maker automatically finds a good layout even when you add and make changes. So building a diagram and making changes is quick.

You can save the diagram as a graphics file. You can also save the diagram as a permanent link at Theory Maker and send other people the link.

Special features include:

  • Different ways to put links between different variables. For example, just pasting in text with decimal numbering (1, 1.1, 1.1.a etc) will automatically create a hierarchical plan
  • Optional boxes to group the pieces of your diagram, for example to mark off different phases, regions or stakeholders
  • Optional quick visualisation of project phases using “calendar bars”
  • Click to include/exclude various parts of your diagram or even include other diagrams
  • Easy to add cross links, e.g. from one Output to more than one Outcome, which are difficult in traditional logframes ​
  • Add notes, conditional formatting and lots more

Plus, Theory Maker is based on a theory of Theories of Change, called A Vocabulary for Evaluation, the beginnings of which are sketched out in the gallery of example diagrams.

Who is this resource useful for?

  • Advocates for evaluation;
  • Commissioners/managers of evaluation;
  • Evaluators;
  • Those involved in evaluation capacity strengthening;

How have you used or intend on using this resource?

As the creator of this resource, I have often used it to sketch out theories of change, logframes etc for evaluation plans and reports. It is good not to have to worry about layout, dragging and dropping connectors etc, as the layout it produces automatically is usually OK. And I can save a link to the online diagram and make changes and additions really quickly. Most people using it at the moment are making small-to-medium sized sketches rather than fully-fledged theories or logframes. 

Why would you recommend it to other people?

It’s free and open-source.

It helps you think about the actual theory: what are the variables and what are the links by which some variables contribute to other variables.

It is flexible and doesn’t insist on some particular input-output-outcome framework but it can do that too if you want.

If you want a really fancy diagram, you can download your sketch from Theory Maker and embellish it further in a program like Illustrator or Inkscape.

Source

Powell, S. (2016). Theory Maker [Website]. Retrieved from http://theorymaker.info

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