This guide provides a set of recommended steps for defining, refining, and integrating milestones while developing a theory of change.
This resource is part of the MEL toolkit for grantmakers and grantees resource collection.
Authors and their affiliation
Megan Colnar and Jay Locke (Economic Justice Program MEL Team, Open Society Foundations)
Key features of this guide to milestones
When developing theories of change for complex issues, it can be tricky to connect activities—the things we’ll actually do–to the long-term, systemic change we want to see. This was the challenge facing Program Officers in the Open Society Foundations’ Economic Justice Program. To help the team think through this “missing middle” for their grant-making portfolios, the program’s MEL team developed and share a set of guidance on how milestones can be used to map the possible contribution of EJP activities to big changes that are hard to achieve and hard to measure.
This guidance provides a set of recommended steps for defining, refining, and integrating milestones while developing a theory of change. In theories of change, milestones are akin to intermediary-level outcomes or the significant stages required to achieve the overall impact. The resource includes helpful examples from partners that have built milestones into their theories of change.
How have you used or intend on using this resource?
EJP Program Officers used this guidance in developing theories of change for their portfolios. The inclusion of milestones in their work ultimately provided a means to better assess progress in line with the Foundation’s emphasis on longer-term and sustained change.
Why would you recommend it to other people?
A standard theory of change template isn’t always sufficient when it comes to understanding how to map contributions to longer-term outcomes. This guidance offers donors and partners working on complex challenges and solutions a theoretical and practical grounding in milestones for strategy and MEL that will allow them to develop comprehensive, “right-fit” theories of change.
Colnar, M. & Locke, J. (2022). A guide to developing, refining, and using milestones. Retrieved from https://www.betterevaluation.org/tools-resources/guide-developing-refining-using-milestones
These resources are part of the Emphasizing evaluative thinking for complex systems change series of the MEL toolkit for grantmakers and grantees resource collection.