A Theory of Change suggested by Dr. Thomas Flanagan for consideration:

This page is linked to and is an extension of the principle of referential transparency promoted by Warfield in the DOSM. Below is a “straw man” intended for the practice of jousting. This is also not a statement about a singular theory of change, but rather about inviting us as a community to be explicit with respect to a Theory of Change in the context of DDS.



Structured dialogue – as an application of authentically democratic design and decision-making – can be applied to a range of situations and can result in a range of valued outcomes. The institutional and individual investment in creating a structured dialogue must be supported through some theory of change which the dialogue is capable of enabling in specific contexts. The Corpus of DDS reviewed so far in ths wiki does not speak directly to theories of change at this time. Addressing this theoretical information gap in DDS can help practitioners in the Arena communicate the value of DDS in ways that will open opportunities to expand the use of DDS and grow the science.

I. A Theory of Change through Learning (psychological). Problematique

Change through learning on the individual level: trust, confidence, collaboration

Change through learning on the group level: situational awareness, consensus root causes

II. A Theory of Change through Democratic Social Interaction (sociological). Pathfinding

Change through authentic sharing on the individual level: cohesive interdependence

Change through authentic sharing on the group level: shared pathways

III. A Theory of Change through Planning (engineering): Scenario Construction & Futures Creation

Change through developing action scenarios: strategies

Change through developing consensus for idealized futures: alignment

IV. A Theory of Change through Linked Cosmologies (theological): Reconnaissance

Change through the emergence of a new community story: narrative management

Theories of change are not mutually exclusive, and may happen to enhance each other. For example, individual and group learning may lead to changes which enhance authentic sharing at the individual and group level, and these changes may enhance capacities for meaningful scenario construction and futures creation, all of which may contribute to the emergence of new cosmologies. At the same time, theories of change can act independently, and a reconnaissance engagement might lead to the emergence of a new story which in and of itself links individual cosmologies and enables the emergence of community identities.