This case study shares how the Forum for African Women Educationalists, an NGO focused on advocacy and research, approached developing its intended impact and theory of change.

Organizations that focus on advocacy, policy, and research work by influencing other actors to change their policies or actions in order to benefit a specific population or cause.

The WHO of their intended impact might focus on the audiences and systems they need to influence, their population of focus, or some combination of both. It should be closely tied to an end goal (the WHAT) that reflects a point of accountability for the organization, one that can be measured. Moreover, since the end goal may take a long time to achieve, many advocacy- and research-focused organizations find it helpful in their intended impact to align on a specific set of interim goals achievable within a reasonable timeframe (one to five years)—for example, the adoption of specific policies in addition to the ultimate goals those policies are intended to achieve.

When it comes to theory of change, such organizations may find it difficult to predict the specific activities they will need to undertake to achieve their intended impact. Their work is often influenced by factors outside of their control—for example, a new law or a window of opportunity offered by a policymaker. Thus, it is important to balance the need to stay focused on strategy with flexibility in implementation. Rather than devoting extensive time to predicting an exact path, organizations often find it helpful to focus on clarifying the skills, capabilities, or tactics the organization is best positioned to use (e.g., litigation, grassroots organizing, media relations, storytelling) while accounting for the ecosystem of other actors working to achieve similar goals.

The Forum for African Women Educationalists

Mission: To promote gender equity and equality in education in Africa by fostering positive policies, practices, and attitudes towards girls’ education.

Intended Impact: Advance gender-responsive education policies—in the countries home to FAWE chapters—to help empower three million African girls and young women ages 10-25 with the 21st century skills and values to achieve their full potential and be productive members of society.

Theory of Change: FAWE uses a four-pronged holistic approach to achieve gender equity in education across Africa:

  • We conduct research on gender-responsive education to support our advocacy and demonstrative work in education policy and practice.
  • We develop and promote practical interventions to demonstrate that the right contexts and environments can enable girls’ enrollment and completion of school.
  • We advocate (in partnership with others) to build awareness and consensus on the social and economic advantages of girls’ education at the regional and country levels.
  • We build the capacity of our national chapters across Africa to enable them to advance the intended impact we aspire to achieve.

Revenue: $7.5 million (2019) fiscal year

Field: Girls’ and women’s education

Geography/footprint: Sub-Saharan Africa

Read the full article about FAWE at The Bridgespan Group.