I have to confess that my lovely Welsh Spaniel, Belle, is in therapy. OK, those savvy dog owners amongst you will know that it is never really the dog that needs therapy – it is often the owners who need it. So yes, I admit, I am the one in ‘therapy’ with the pet behaviourist.
Since moving out of our house for building work and then moving back in once the building work was completed, Belle has changed from being a calm, friendly dog to an anxious, skittish, highly-strung but still friendly canine companion.
Our aim from visiting the pet behaviourist is that Belle’s general well-being will be improved. We hoped she will revert back into that lovely calm, relaxed dog, rather than the slightly hysterical barking one she currently is. Those of my clients who I have conference calls with, will have heard the ‘hysterical vocal’ version of Belle (and I apologise now for the disruption to our calls).
I have been working on Theory of Change models for a number of clients over recent months, as well as one for MPC. I realised that seeing the pet behaviourist is a bit like running a charity project. We expect to make a positive change to individuals and deliver long-term outcomes. The requests for a Theory of Change model are becoming more frequent from our clients – the principles that we all know and love of inputs, outputs and outcomes still holds true for Theory of Change, but it goes one step further and asks how and why a long-term outcome will be achieved.
Using a backwards mapping approach, we work through a number of steps, which start with the long-term goal and working backwards to consider what the earliest changes that need to occur are, in order to make the long-term goal a reality. This is the opposite to the way we usually think about planning because we have to start thinking about what preconditions need to be in place, rather than starting with the question ‘what can we do to change something’.
The diagram shows the backward mapping steps required. My Long Term Outcome or Final Goal for Belle is that she will be a relaxed happy dog. The activities that we can do with her are agility training, plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. The immediate outcomes are that;
1.) I am exhausted from doing so much running at agility, although I am fitter! But on a more serious note
2.) Belle barks less, is happier when we have to go out and leave her, does not demand attention when we are not able to give it – because her needs have been met.
In order for this to happen the following assumptions have to be in place; that the agility training and increase in both physical and mental simulation is what she needs to help her. A second assumption is that both myself and my husband are prepared to put in the considerable extra consistent effort to provide the activities for her and are committed to attending every session.
The evidence can be found by researching dog behaviour and theory. Enablers are things that either need to be present or absent to allow a project to succeed. So for Belle, an external enabler is that agility classes are available locally, that we as ‘dog parents’ can afford to pay for them (internal enabler), that we have the transport to take her to the classes (internal enabler) and that she is the sort of dog that is happy meeting other dogs and has a desire to please (internal enabler).
So, the same model holds true for charity projects and organisations and I will share the MPC Theory of Change model in the future – but I thought you would enjoy hearing how I had applied it to Belle first.
Post Script… I am pleased to say that Belle is doing very well, enjoying her agility and is a much happier dog already!