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What Are the 5 Stages of a Change Model?

5 stages of a change model featured image
A change model is a crucial part of any charity's overall strategy. Image credit: Isaac Smith

The basic goal of any charity, non-profit or third-sector organisation is to bring about some kind of change. This might be at the level of individuals, your local community, or society more broadly. In any case, you’ll need a clear change model.

You can think of this as a roadmap for what you want to achieve, and how you’re going to do it.

In other words, a change model outlines:

  • Your goals,

  • The Impact these goals will have,

  • How you’re going to achieve these goals,

  • How you’ll measure your success.

This is vital, as many charities work towards social goals of some description. While social issues are obviously important, they can often be difficult to quantify. This can create a number of strategic problems for charities.

For one thing, it makes it more difficult to know how effectively you’re using your resources. For another, you may have difficulty convincing funders and stakeholders that your cause is worthwhile.

Developing a clear change model for your charity is crucial to meet these challenges.

Here’s what this involves.

1. Identify the Need for Change

Your first priority is to determine the exact need for change. In other words, you need to take a step back and identify the core social problem you want to address, and the reasons why these occur.

Context plays an important role here.

Most social issues are incredibly complex, and they often have multiple diffuse causes. These can relate to attitudes, education, economic factors or even the choices of individuals. As such, you’ll need to define at which level you’d like to affect change.

Here, it’s important to engage with a variety of stakeholders to gain a better understanding of the causes and influencing factors which lead to the problem you’d like to address. That way, you can have a more targeted approach to specific causes.

Another key contextual factor is your resources.

That is, you’ll need to have an understanding of your capacity to create change, both in terms of finance and staffing. This is essential for defining a realistic goal for your change model as a charity.

2. Engage Your Stakeholders in Your Change Model

The next challenge is achieving buy-in for your change model. In almost all cases, there will be many people with an interest in your particular cause. Engaging your stakeholders means:

  • Convincing them that the problem exists and needs to be solved,

  • Convincing them that your solution to the problem is the right one.

Of course, there are all kinds of different stakeholders, such as:

  • Your own staff,

  • Other relevant organisations,

  • The local community,

  • Individuals affected by the specific issue,

  • Local government,

  • Civic society.

This is where things can get tricky.

Again, each stakeholder is an actor with their own worldview, preferences and interests. When dealing with social issues, this can create a number of problems. For instance, you may encounter:

  • Stakeholders with no interest in your cause,

  • Stakeholders who agree that there is a problem, but disagree on the solution,

  • Stakeholders with goals which contradict your own.

This is where advocacy and lobbying come into play. Specifically, feasibility studies and business plans will help to bring all kinds of stakeholders on board with your key mission.

Change model stakeholder engagement meeting
It's crucial that you bring stakeholders on board with your change model. Image credit: Dylan Gillis

3. Develop Your Change Plans

Next, it’s time to create your methodology for achieving change. Recall that in the first step we decided on the specific causes or contributing factors of your core problem that you’re seeking to address.

The first stage to developing a proper change plan is to set clear objectives.

The easiest way to do this is using the SMART framework, meaning that your objectives should be:

  • Specific,

  • Measurable,

  • Attainable,

  • Realistic,

  • Time-Specific.

For example, a youth work charity might seek to achieve a specific decrease in the percentage of young people in their community leaving school with no qualifications, over a fixed period of time.

They can then use their understanding of the causes of low educational achievement to design actions to meet these SMART objectives. For example, they might provide additional support services, mentoring or tutoring to young people at risk of leaving education.

SMART goals infographic
SMART goals ensure the effectiveness of your change model. Image credit: Hydrate Marketing

4. Implement Your Plans for Change

With your objectives and actions clearly defined, you can begin to put your change model into practice. This might be delivering actual services, operating educational campaigns, or any other kind of action.

However, a number of practical concerns can come into play here.

Some of these are organisational. That is, it’s vital to know who will deliver which activities, and when. You’ll also need to have plans in place to deal with organisational issues, like turnover of staff or volunteers.

Of course, funding also has a key role to play in the implementation of your change model.

Many campaigns underperform because of unforeseen costs, or because the organisation simply failed to secure funding in the first instance. Of course, this can be avoided with more thorough planning at earlier stages of the change model.

Additionally, working with an expert funding consultant can help to safeguard your finances, maintaining your ability to deliver services.

5. Evaluate the Success of Your Change Model

Remember, the goal of any change model is to quantify the impact your organisation has on social issues. The final stage of this process is to actually evaluate your success. In some ways, this is the most important part of any change model.

For one thing, evaluation helps you to figure out what works and what doesn’t. This means you can carry lessons forward into your future activities. Having a record of these lessons will help to make your future campaigns more impactful and cost-effective.

Beyond this, it’s vital for any organisation to have a clear track record of providing return on investment. This will greatly improve your ability to secure funding in future, especially through public tenders.

Luckily, if you’ve followed the process, evaluating the success of your change model should be easier. Your SMART objectives will be measurable and allow you to compare your expectations with your real-world results.

S3 Solutions are experts on all aspects of driving impactful charitable campaigns. We work with organisations just like yours to deliver lasting and sustainable change. Speak to us today to see how we can help with your next project.


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