Multi-level theory of change (Individual version)

Estimated Time
75 minutes, plus 40 minutes for stretch exercise
Resource Type

This tool is designed for individual use, to help us develop a transformative theory of how change happens within a socio-technical system, drawing on the Multi-Level Perspective.

It complements the Pentagonal map for system analysis tool in Component 1, which identifies the dominant system regime driven by actors, materials and rules.

This tool does not require facilitation, as it has been designed for use by an individual as a reflective exercise. An alternative version is available for group workshop use.



This tool was inspired by sections of the MOTION Handbook on Developing a Transformative Theory of Change, by Alejandra Boni, Caetano C. R. Penna, Carla Alvial Palavicino, Christoph Brodnik, Cristian Matti, Jenny Witte, Johan Schot, Jordi Molas-Gallart, Matthias Weber, Pablo F. Mendez, Paulina Terrazas and Susanne Keesman.

It was reviewed and developed further by Andrea Padilla Cuevas.


Ghosh, B., Shaw, V., Steinmueller, E., Zinkstock, E. (2022) Multi-level theory of change (Individual version) Available at:

Facilitators Instructions

Important: Duplicating the tool

This resource is a Master version of the tool. To use it, you will need to duplicate it to your own Miro account.

How to duplicate the Board

  • First, make sure you have your own Miro account. Researchers may be able to access a free educational plan for staff at educational institutions
  • Click on the ‘download’ link to access the Lab master board
  • Then click on the title
  • Click ‘duplicate’ – this will open another board with ‘Copy’ in the title
  • Rename the tool and save the URL

You will need to complete this process for each board. If you are using a tool with multiple groups, you can either: (a) create a different board for each group or (b) copy the tool multiple times on the same board. We recommend (b) to avoid confusion over board links.

If you are new to Miro, there is a short intro here.

If you accidentally change the Resource Lab Master, don’t worry! – please leave a message in the feedback section below and the Lab team will be able to update it.

2 thoughts on “Multi-level theory of change (Individual version)

  1. (Sharing comments kindly provided by Michael Bernstein (AIT Austrian Institute of Technology / Arizona State University), who took on testing of the individual tool)

    Miro layout feedback
    – perhaps create “sections” and then an “outline” for the board to ease navigation from section to section?
    – new to MIRO box — particular if used as a group, you might also indicate the “arrow” icon in the upper right, next to the bullhorn / share button, which allows you to toggle other people’s cursors on/off
    – very clever design to have boxes filled in the one part of the canvas, with steps, and then dragged to the part where the visual lives, making it dynamic. Liked that quite a bit

    Multi-level theory of change exercise
    – Overall, I found the resource was instructive in the sense of forcing me to consider what really is a niche — what constitutes one, how do you recognize it…how to recognize regime features…what sits at which level in the heuristic, etc. It scaffolded a way to make sense of things from a multi-level perspective. In this sense my intuition is that this particular resource might be especially beneficial as a group activity and conducive to group sense-making—for example when a project is seeking to understand their situational environment as a precursor to strategizing on potential impact within a niche (e.g., seeking to alter a regime in the context of a landscape). The dialogic mode of thinking with people about the questions and content posed by this Miro might thus be more generative than when used as an individual.
    – Related to my point about Transformative Outcomes, I left the tool wondering in how far this map is a TOC or rather an ML Map to facilitate a subsequent conversation about TOs and then, subsequently, a TOC (in terms of input, activities, output, outcomes, impact, as Bipashyee explained in her talk at the workshop). My intuition is that for scaffolding capacity building, it’s good to keep this ML-TOC exercise separate from TO and TOC practices (as you’ve done)…however it does make me wonder if adding some TO language to the ML-TOC (and perhaps calling it a ML Map, rather than TOC?) might help “seed” peoples’ thinking to warm them up for subsequent TO analysis.
    – Note that for context, my comments come from the perspective of someone who’s been hot-to-trot for doing intervention research since his dissertation in 2016, and who used the example “reforming R&I systems “normal” (in the sense of the normal v post-normal dichotomy) regime” (so it was a rather meta-meta reflection). Given this context, I thus found it more difficult to think about the ML Map independent of TO interventions. But that may be me and a function of my background / interest / choice of focus for the practice.

    Nitty gritty
    – In the stretch box, “regime alignment” section, the language “which aspects of your regime do you see as most vulnerable to being displaced by new niche configurations” seems to speak from the perspective of a party wishing to harden regimes, rather than destabilize and open up for regime success in service of transformation. I think the word “vulnerable” set me on that line of thinking. Perhaps “most susceptible to displacement” or “presenting greatest opportunity for niche replacement” or something like that, might convey the spirit of the board a bit more fully?

  2. First of all, I would like to say that I really enjoyed watching examples in this tool, so that each part of the MLP could be clearer to the audiences. I think this was one of the challenges of the MLP framework. To adapt it to the work I am doing, I would add a practical related example for the work that I am doing.
    In comparison, I did not fully understood the experimental spaces questions. Is the goal of the related question for us to include what type of actors are already working in the solution? Would it be the description of a creation of a project that is already doing this? What relationship could it have with the niches? I believe there could be added here what is the end goal of this exercise, if it is to define the experimental spaces to be able to use then other tools to develop this further.

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