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Our Theory of Change

January 31, 2024

Setting the Standard for a More Equitable Bay Area

A clipping from a publication entitled 'The Theory of Change'.
By Kelly Batson, UWBA Chief Community Impact Officer
As a poverty-fighting organization with the mission to dismantle the root causes of poverty in the Bay Area, we often leverage strategies across focus areas. We do this to mobilize the region to build equitable pathways to prosperity for everyone.

In early 2023, we created a Theory of Change to act as a compass, guiding us and articulating the most important pieces of that journey – from the problem as we see it to the outcomes we plan to achieve. In short, a Theory of Change, or TOC, is a comprehensive description and illustration of how and why a desired change is expected, focusing on “filling in” the gap between what a change initiative does and how these desired goals are achieved.

Megan Joseph, Founding Senior Practitioner at Impact Launch, guided us through the creation process. After months of conversations with United Way Bay Area (UWBA) staff and board members, and at least a handful of times when Megan said, “OK, try to say that in fewer words!”, we have our UWBA Theory of Change (TOC). It’s written and designed to help us be bold and concise in sharing our vision for an equitable Bay Area and how we plan to get there.

Having the actual TOC document to share with our partners, volunteers, and donors is critical for articulating where we stand on some of the most pressing issues our region faces. But this process did something else. It challenged us as an organization to grapple with questions essential to defining our approach. Questions like:

  • What are the root causes of poverty we are addressing?
  • How do we define and describe them?
  • What is unique about UWBA? What are our “superpowers”?
  • What words that describe our work will be both understandable and compelling for those who know us and those who just met us?

Download Theory of Change

An image of the Theory of Change publication.

The conversations required to come up with the answers were almost as important as the answers themselves.

You may have heard me reference a quote about a system delivering according to its values. We hope by upholding our values, naming the root causes of poverty, articulating our strengths, and declaring our strategies around Mobilizing, Dismantling, and Building for a thriving Bay Area – we can all work to create a system that delivers for everyone. A thriving Bay Area, where:

  • People have their basic needs met
  • People have access to high-quality, living-wage jobs and careers
  • People are financially stable and prosperous
  • People have safe, stable, and affordable housing

This is the work, and this is the time to get involved. If you’re interested in our efforts, please consider supporting us by donating and volunteering. To stay up to date on our progress around the Bay Area, subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social media.