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Table 3 Key components of Theory of Change (ToC)

From: Planning the scale up of brief psychological interventions using theory of change

Key components and terminology of ToC



The change, real-world impact or vision the project is able to contribute towards.

Long-term outcome

The final and measurable outcome that the project can achieve on its own.

Intermediate outcome

Pre-conditions (or stepping stones) which lead to the long-term outcome in a causal pathway.

Ceiling of accountability

A line (called ceiling of accountability) drawn between the impact and the long-term outcome indicating the level at which implementers stop measuring whether outcomes of the project have been achieved, and therefore stop accepting responsibility of the project’s success or failure.


An external condition which must exist for the intermediate outcome on the causal pathway to be achieved.


Strategies or activities which bring about intermediate outcomes.


Evidence that provides an argument for the selection and importance of each intermediate outcome and long-term outcome, and provides justification for the causal pathway as such.


Measures of success aligned with each intermediate outcome, and long-term outcome.

  1. Adapted from DeSilva et al., 2014