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Theory of change

Theory of change

The Community Chaplaincy Association has developed a theory of change which describes how community chaplaincy works to achieve its aims.

The approach of community chaplaincy

Theory of change

The aim of community chaplaincy work is to support people to have more fulfilled lives. This leads to reduced offending behaviour which leads to safer communities.

The Community Chaplaincy Association has developed a theory of change which describes how community chaplaincy works to achieve this aim. The Community Chaplaincy Theory of Change is a way of working that draws on the experience of practitioners and research evidence about effective interventions. It argues that establishing a trusting relationship between a mentor and a mentee is the catalyst for bringing about lasting change. 


Community Chaplaincies works with over 2,000 offenders per year providing 'through the gate' mentoring and advocacy. Mentees typically have a history of offending and complex needs. Moreover previous experience of institutions and support services has not been positive – they are accustomed to being stigmatised, let down and excluded, which creates initial barriers to engagement. Clients are of all faiths and none.

First contact

The initial contact with mentees is on a voluntary basis, so we build upon a nascent desire to change. Mentors meet with mentees at least weekly (during early stages) and focus on a range of different factors. The process is dynamic, so while the theory of change  outlines a broad sequence, the reality is that the journey will differ between individuals; some elements will happen concurrently, others at different times. There will be steps forward and backwards throughout.

Change process

The first part of the change process is for a mentor to establish a trusting relationship with the mentee. This starts before release and continues outside. The trusting relationship provides a platform for a range of activities and outcomes. People are supported to take responsibility for own future, and develop a sincere, personal commitment to continue journey away from crime.

Factors help the service to be effective:

  • Co-located at prisons: accessible, drop-in culture, • Knowledge/experience of systems (e.g. benefits, housing),
  • Rigorous volunteer recruitment and training,
  • Careful matching of mentors and mentees,
  • Flexible/adaptable approach,
  • Part of a national network – enables improved cross-area work and gives opportunity for sharing best practice,
  • Faith ethos: see humanity in people, desire to do good, support each other,
  • Partnerships with community organisations and statutory providers.