The Futures Project

The Theory of Change (TOC)

CAPO consulted with Oregon State University Rural Studies to develop key indicators to demonstrate the impact Community Action Agencies have on stabilizing and equipping low income individuals to exit poverty as well as the data to better target programs to reach their intended outcomes. Using OSU poverty research, as well as their experience in the field, CAPO worked with regional Community Action partners (Washington and Idaho) to develop an initial Theory of Change. The TOC identifies shared goals in supporting individuals and families move up and out of poverty, and communicate these goals with community members, decision makers, and funders.


Community Action serves low income individuals and families working hard to move out of situational and generational poverty. The Region 10 effort to understand the mechanisms that support people moving out of poverty, developed a set of indicators designed to measure success in services provided by community action agencies. This project will create evaluation tools that will allow agencies to measure the true impact of their programs. Improved evaluation will result in outcome-driven programs to increase the positive impact of affordable housing, homeless prevention, asset building, early education, family supports, and other services, including:

  • Food Banks and Hot Meal Programs
  • Post-Secondary and Vocational Education Guidance
  • Work Training, including Adult ESL
  • Temporary Shelter
  • Transitional and Permanent Housing
  • Utility Payment Assistance
  • Government Benefit Enrollment
  • Financial Education
  • Parenting Resources and Support
  • Transportation Assistance

These agencies share a common goal of combating poverty; however, there is no agreement in the human services filed about what the outcomes of these programs and services should be. Many homelessness prevention programs work in their own silos; there are few incentives to integrate housing programs with other services for low income families. All these agencies and programs, designed to meet the needs of our most vulnerable community members, are working toward ambiguous goals and, due to funding restrictions and grant reporting, are not fully integrated.

Phase II – Piloting Indicators

Beginning in February 2017, The Futures Project will begin piloting indicators. Two Community Action agencies from each of the three states will begin this work. In August 2017, analysis of the pilot project data will give the Futures Project Steering Committee the necessary information to move to the next phase of implementation.

When piloting is completed, 53 agencies in the three states will create and analyze data to understand the mechanisms within communities that support individuals and families. Agencies will be able to clearly describe to their clients the outcomes individuals and families must meet to become resource adequate. Additionally, funders will be able to see the impact of those programs. Agencies will be able to assess their value based upon the outcomes their clients achieve, as opposed to the outputs of the work the agencies undertake.

2017 and Beyond

As the project moves through the piloting phase, the Steering Committee will update this website. However, please feel free to contact Janet Merrell via email or at 503-830-9969 with questions.