BANANAS: Theory of Change Clarifies Priorities

When Kym R. Johnson took the helm of this multi-pronged 40-year childcare organization in 2016, she brought a passion to create a more impactful organization with programs deeply responsive to the BANANAS community’s current needs. In late 2017, she determined that developing a theory of change could get the organization on a path to meaningful organizational change. With three other BANANAS leaders, she and I designed and implemented a highly participatory process with a diverse planning team comprised of a few Board members, senior staff leaders, key division heads and others.

In several sessions, the team grappled with such important questions as ‘Who is BANANAS’ core target for change–parents, childcare providers or children?” and “What does our ultimate vision of change for these people look like?”.  After I guided the team to consensus on these issues, subgroups developed several parallel “pathways of outcomes” (or results chains) that they deemed necessary to reach the ultimate vision or “destination.” The group then drafted a one-page flow chart depicting the ultimate social impact and three synergistic pathways. BANANAS Board and staff are continuing to flesh out, in more detail, their theory of change’s outcomes pathways and determining the metrics they will use to assess their progress on achieving the results for the families and childcare providers they serve.

“The TOC process took staff out of their silos and helped them see the broader picture. They now understand how their individual efforts contribute to the whole organization’s impact. When a new funding or program opportunity arises, we view it through the lens of our TOC and ask ‘Will this get us closer to our North Star?’ If it passes the test, we pursue it. It’s probably mitigated some resistance,” said Kym Johnson, Executive Director, BANANAS.

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