The Children's Planning Table: Coordinating and Building an Effective System


The Children's Planning Table (CPT) is a collaborative of service providers, planning bodies and funders who have come together to plan how services can be better coordinated for children in Waterloo Region. Its mandate is to serve as an integrated planning table for children's services from pre-birth to 12 years of age in Waterloo Region. All service providers working with children pre-birth to 12 years of age and with families are invited to be members of the CPT.

The Children's Planning Table is a space for open, honest and sometimes difficult conversations that are intended to lead to action within community as well as within service organizations. The CPT charter sets out its vision, core principles, and governance structure. The charter also frames how CPT members are expected to work together as well as the table's intended impact.

This document complements the charter by going deeper into the CPT's theory of change. A theory of change captures assumptions about the nature of a social issue, actions required to address that issue, and how particular actions will lead to solutions. It is used to develop strategies as well as develop a plan for measuring contribution and impact, including indicators of success.

Part of the Children's Planning Table commitment going forward is to pay attention to outcomes, impact and sustainability

  • How and to what extent is the work of the CPT making a difference?
  • What is its contribution, and what can be learned along the way?
  • What will it take to make its outcomes and contribution sustainable within the community?

The theory of change provides the framework for answering these questions.

Theory of Change: Getting to Impact

The vision of the Children's Planning Table is that:

All children in Waterloo Region live in a community that supports their optimal developmental health through a system of coordinated and effective services

In spring of 2015, a theory of change process was initiated to unpack that vision and more clearly articulate the connections between what the CPT does and the change it wants to see. Members of the CPT were invited to participate in two half-day workshops designed to challenge assumptions and develop the theory of change. The figure on the next page illustrates the intended contribution of the Children's Planning Table.

The illustration reads from the bottom up. Across bottom of the page are the main activity streams of the Children's Planning Table.  The activities of the CPT are intended to foster outcomes in two ways: first in building the capacity of service providers for designing programs and fostering a culture that reflects a child and family centred, strength-based approach; and second, in more coordinated and effective policies and practices across the system.  Together, increased capacity and changes in policy and practice are intended to build a system of services, programs and environments that support the optimal developmental health of children. These outcomes are then expected to play out at the community level, within the family and for children themselves.

The illustration also shows how the theory of change aligns with a collective impact framework, where stakeholders in the system are expected to implement change in their own practice to serve the common agenda and coordinate efforts around achieving meaningful impact.

The next steps for the Theory of Change include: identifying more specific shorter-term outcomes that relate to building capacity and creating more coordinated and effective policies and practices; as well as developing/activating a clear strategy for realizing the contribution of the Children's Planning Table.


Tanya Darisi

The O'Halloran Group