Theory of Change: Addressing the Problem of Prioritization

The technical knowledge generated by the Institute’s policy research stems from its theory of change. We believe that the conditions of structural inequality that permeate the policy environment of the Chicago metropolitan region will find their solution in a robust equity theory of change. The logic model of the Institute’s concept of structural inequality exhibits how the African American community is relatively powerless so long as its collective policy preferences have not been or are less likely to be enacted compared to similarly situated groups. Enactment of the policy priorities of the African American community defines its political power. Because this often depends upon the coalitions in which African American political leaders participate, the capacity of black leaders to negotiate with coalition partners on the basis of effective and reliable policy research determines whose policy priorities prevail in the decision-making process.

Logic modeling is a tool to visualize the structural components and interactions of a policy area, i.e., the resources utilized, activities performed, and program goals and outcomes accomplished. The logic model represents a program’s or institution’s theory of change, which is the set of assumptions that specify that the application of certain resources and actions, will produce an identifiable set of changes in a target population or impact area.

The policy environment that influences the condition of the black community is measurable by aggregating policy preferences as an index of the failure of the democratic process which subordinates black interests to the interests of the white majority.



Equity Logic Model

The Institute’s policy approach will address a range of methodological problems. First, research areas have different policy environments which are complicated by challenges such as the accessibility of data, data quality and quantity, policy history, implementation problems, etc. Second, any assessment of the policy environment of an issue influences its prioritization. Third, an institute’s research and advocacy capacity, including the state of the research community for a particular issue influences its prioritization. Fourth, knowledge of implementation, policy practices, governance, market conditions and the day-to-day activities of practitioners and constituents influence prioritization. Fifth, assessing the design and operation of the strategic models implemented to influence service delivery and client behavior impacts the prioritization of policy issues because such “best practices” also operate as criteria for the RFPs (Request for Proposals) of funders and foundations.

The Institute’s focus on the capacity of stakeholders to implement effective policy practices highlights the core processes at work in policy implementation and the barriers that inhibit implementation.