Most Americans learn something about the policy process in high school civics class: an idea becomes a bill, elected officials vote on it, and - if all goes well - the bill gets enacted into law. However, knowing the specific steps for ideas to become laws does not tell us much about how to promote policy change successfully or why certain policies move forward and others do not. That is where theories come into play. Theories can help unlock the inner workings of the policymaking process to explain how and why a change may or may not occur.
These internal ideas or assumptions about policymaking, also called theories of change, can be documented as visual diagrams that express the relationships between advocacy actions and hoped-for results. When articulated, these strategy and belief system roadmaps can clarify expectations internally and externally, and facilitate more effective planning and evaluation.