Theory of
Change Model



Mechanism of change

Safe and supportive environment
Positive and Healthy relationships
Engagement through free choice
Support to take part in stimulating, fun developmental activities
Informal Education

Access new experiences
Insights into new and different worlds

Opportunity to take an active role in, and contribute to, youth provision and/or community

Showcase events for young people, parents and community members

Intermediate Outputs

Build relationships and rapport
Signpost to activities
Insight into young people and groups
Community engagement

Make friends
Develop good relationship skills
Develop teamwork skills
Have fun
Improve mental health and wellbeing
Improve initiative
Learn empathy
Learn responsibility
Have a sense of belonging (association)

Develop strong sense of self
Increased confidence
Increased self-esteem
Raised ambition
Develop life skills
Develop strong relationships with others

Contribute to community
Community cohesion
Develop awareness of issues in community
Develop leadership qualities and skills

Prepare and practice for life and work
Positive contribution to youth work

Inspire to achieve more
Create Hope
Change the story about young
Sense of community pride



There are several assumptions in the Theory of Change. These are:

Outcomes and impacts are interrelated

Although they are presented as distinct constructs for clarity, there are complex relationships within and between outcomes and impacts.


Open access youth provision will only ever be part of what is happening for young people and there will be many other factors influencing their development and life chances, which makes it very unlikely that any one youth organisation will be able to fully attribute longer-term impacts to their provision. It is more appropriate to measure the contribution provision has made to changing young people’s outcomes and to understand the quality of provision, as higher quality provision is more likely to improve intermediate outcomes and therefore make a greater contribution to impact.

Differentiated impact

Young people enter youth provision with different needs, interests, levels of support, access to resources, and social and emotional skills. Every young person’s journey will be different.


YPAC want to acknowledge the work done by : Kelly Bradshaw-Walsh, Karen Scanlon (NPC) and Bethia McNeil on their A Theory of Change for Open Access Youth Provision which gave us the assumptions and impacts

Not all impacts of youth work are positive

There are potential negative impacts of youth provision, particularly when it involves bringing together young people who are facing multiple and complex risks in their lives.


Many of the factors described in the theory of change are supported by consistent long-term funding which is not typically the reality for many youth organisations

Staff skills and capacity

Linked to funding, many of the mechanisms of change rely on a skilled and well-resourced staff team

Attendance and engagement

Although the theory of change recognises the importance of young people being able to choose how and when they engage in youth provision, it is likely that longer-term, regular engagement with provision is linked to improved outcomes.


The mechanisms of change can be challenging when dealing with changes in the context of delivery, such as in the case of Covid 19, the impact of lockdown on face-to-face work. For example, supporting young people to feel safe online involves different ways of working compared to helping them to feel safe in a face-to-face setting. Whist we recognise that this requires adaptability, the experiences of young people that lead to engagement and positive outcomes are likely to be the same, even if the activities need to be adapted to meet the needs of a changing context.• Insight into young people and groups

If you would like any more information about our work please contact us.