Four-Levels of Cause: An Idealist Model for Analyzing Causal Pathways

By Simon Dennis


Executive Summary

Because outcome measurement orients organizations towards symptomatic solutions, philanthropies interested in addressing the underlying causes of social problems need alternative ways to measure organizational capacity.  Current models for analyzing the roots of social problems, however, do not lend themselves to devising this metric.  An alternate model called the Intentionality Model, that defines four causal levels that apply to all social problems, is appropriate for this task.  A metric for social change can be devised through studying the ways that organizational characteristics correspond with the causal levels they seek to address.



The idea that social problems have both symptoms and causes is commonly expressed.  For example, the axiom “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime,” suggests, among other things, that symptomatic solutions offer shorter-term relief than do their causal counterparts.  The phrase “Band-Aid Solution” implies the same and alludes to the potentially problem-hiding nature of symptomatic relief.  Similarly, the phrase “going upstream”–to address the source of the contamination rather than cleaning the water once contaminated –suggests the benefits of prevention over treatment once the damage has been done. Each of these reflects an understanding that a solution will not last if the problem’s cause is left untreated.

Despite this awareness, it is becoming increasingly difficult in America for non-profit organizations to provide causal solutions.  In recent years, philanthropies have been increasing the sector’s accountability through evaluating organizational effectiveness in terms of quantifiable outcomes.  Reflecting this trend, the philanthropy sector has increased the importance of quantifiable outcome reports in guiding fund allocation.  Because the tangible nature of symptoms makes them the easiest aspect to measure, this emphasis encourages organizations to pursue symptomatic solutions.

For this reason, despite the fact that both organizations and funding sources want to move their solutions causally upstream, the non-profit sector’s dependence on measurable outcomes gently pushes it towards the symptomatic end of the spectrum.  To counteract this effect, philanthropies concerned with the non-profit sector’s ability to achieve long-term solutions to underlying societal problems need a standardized method of measuring organizational capacity to affect social change.  The following breakdown of social problems into four levels of cause provides a framework for developing this metric.

Models for Analyzing the Causal Pathways of Social Problems

Like the conventional language mentioned above, the field of sociology has enjoyed relative agreement both that social problems have symptoms and causes and that lasting solutions must address the causes.  Successive philosophies of the social sciences have, however, differed in the way they define the cause.  Ever since Marx, there has been considerable debate within the field of sociology as to whether the ultimate causes of social problems can be found in the material or the ideological realm.  Marxists and other structuralists argue that social problems result from the material conditions of society.  Idealists such as poststructuralists and critical theorists argue that the material conditions of society result from the way societies think. (Sanderson, Stephen K. 1999)

For example, to choose two widely divergent models, both Marxist and poststructuralist approaches believe in something called the cause of modern social problems, but each of them define this cause very differently. A certain poststructuralist approach called Causal Layered Analysis traces the roots of social problems back to “worldviews”. (Sohail Inayatullah, 1998).   Marxist theory finds the roots of modern social problems in the distribution of ownership of the modes of production.  Each model has certain strengths in that each model is useful for accomplishing certain goals.

Needless to say, neither of these models is now widely used in the causal analysis performed by philanthropic foundations.  Philanthropies do however employ models for analyzing the root causes of social problems.  These are often implied by their “theories of change”.  The “conventional model” which guides the causal analysis done by most philanthropies traces causal pathways back from social problems in directions which correspond to conventional ways of dividing up society.  According to this model, because the causal factors that lead to systemic social problems are simultaneously economic, political, institutional, historical and psychological, customary societal divisions which explain how society works, provide effective classifications for the causal pathways that lead to social problems.

This model is explained by the United Way of America in its literature created to shift the local branches towards causal solutions in their respective communities.  In “Connecting Community Impact with Outcomes Measurement”, the United Way describes the causes of social problems as being organized into general categories that include many of the fundamental sectors and institutions of society.  

Although it is useful for understanding and diagnosing social problems, the conventional model has major drawbacks that make it disadvantageous as a tool for guiding a community’s work in addressing social problems.  One drawback is that, because each problem is seen as having a wide variety of causes, greater causal precedence breeds greater causal diversity.  This yields the vexing result that the further causally upstream one goes, the greater the number of factors there are to contend with.  Because no one organization can address them all, this model makes those battling for causal solutions feel shorthanded and unequipped.

The model that follows, from hereon referred to as the Intentionality Model, is an alternate way of slicing up the pie of social problem causes.  Like the models presented above, it has certain strengths and weaknesses.  The proposed model’s purpose is not to explain or diagnose social problems.  Because it does not incorporate a language for analyzing power relations or institutional forms, it is not well suited to help design solutions to social problems.  Rather, it is a rough framework for measuring organizational capacity to achieve solutions once they have been designed using another model.  More specifically, it offers a framework for measuring an organizational capacity that is all too often overlooked, that is, the organizational capacity to support social change.


The Intentionality Model for Causal Analysis of Social Problems

The above-mentioned example of teaching a man to fish as a way of addressing the cause of his not having food suggests a two-level analysis of the problem. The symptom is not having food, and the cause is not knowing how to fish.  But this is not the end of the causal chain, as one can still ask why he does not know how to fish.  The answer to this question presents another level of cause.  In this way, the two-level analysis of the problem could be expanded to a multi-level analysis that includes also the cause of the cause and so on.

The proposed model for causal analysis views social problems as having four levels of cause.  These four levels are the physical cause, the cognitive cause, the volitional cause, and the ultimate cause.  The physical cause is the sum total of the physical actions, events and circumstances that directly cause people to suffer or lose freedom.  The cognitive cause is all of the knowledge, understanding and skills of those whose actions and inactions bring about the problem.  The volitional cause is the inclinations, motivations and desires that guide these thoughts and actions.  The ultimate cause is the lack of connection between people and their social and physical environments.  In the following pages, these levels are described in greater detail.

1. The Physical Cause
: the physical actions, events and circumstances that cause people to suffer or lose freedom.  The physical cause is the symptomatic level of the problem.

In the case of an incident of domestic violence, the physical cause can be limited to a single event and the resultant bodily harm.  As in the case implied by the above-mentioned phrase “going upstream,” the physical cause can include a long chain of events.  Suppose a village is deprived of food because a factory that is dumping sewage has poisoned the fish in a nearby river.  Here, the physical cause includes the lack of food, the poisoned fish, the contaminated river, the act of dumping, etc.  The physical cause includes everything causally “downstream” from the thoughts that guide the actions of the managers of the factory.  We will use this example of river contamination to illustrate the other three causal levels as well.

2. The Cognitive Cause
: the knowledge, understanding and skills of those whose actions and inaction bring about the problem.  In general terms, this level includes the awareness and understanding, or lack thereof, of the problem.  In more specific terms, the cognitive cause includes the lack of skills for preventing or curing the problem and the thoughts leading to specific actions that contribute to the problem.

The cognitive cause of a polluted river could be a lack of awareness of the consequences of the factory’s wastewater practices on the part of the factory managers, the politicians, or the voting or consuming public. Educating any of these groups could lead to a change in the factory’s dumping practices.  For instance, one can imagine factory managers who decide to change their practices as soon as they learn that they are harming a village downstream.  It might also be that the factory managers refuse to change their practices, perhaps under the burden of economic forces, even upon understanding the results of their actions.  In this case, the managers could be treated as part of the physical cause and educating the consuming public may prove more effective.

3. The Volitional Cause: the inclinations, motivations and desires of those whose actions and inaction bring about the problem.  This includes depression, hopelessness, lack of self-esteem, or a disregard for the wellbeing of oneself or others, as well as specific desires for certain outcomes.

Despite the fact that people can apparently think and learn things they don’t want to, within the Intentionality Model, the cognitive level is said to result from the volitional level because over time both individuals and communities acquire knowledge and skills that reflect their interests.

As we continue “upstream” and find educating the factory managers an insufficient solution, we encounter the volitional layer of the problem.  If the managers learn of the results of their actions and do not change their behavior, it is because their desire to not change their wastewater practices outweighs their desire to not starve the village.  In this case, increasing their desire to not starve the village might be achieved through introducing the managers to residents from the village.  If the managers are still unwilling to change their practices, achieving a solution may require going further still.

4. The Ultimate Cause: the breakdown of caring, compassion and love at the individual and community levels.

This level of the problem is disconnectedness within oneself and between individuals and their social and physical environments.  On the largest scale, it can take the form of communication breakdown between nationalities, populations or sectors.  On a smaller scale, it takes the form of fragmentation of local communities or families.  The essence of this fragmentation is the breakdown of the bonds of affection that would otherwise hold together the social fabric of society.  Within the logic of this model, it is not too much to say that hard-heartedness is the ultimate cause of every social ill.

Within the Intentionallity Model, the ultimate cause is said to be the cause of the volitional cause in that the connection that a person forms with another person, place or thing, is the basis for their subsequent desire for it.  On a larger scale, it could be argued that a community comes to want the representations of what it values.

The final chapter in our simplified analysis of the causes of the river contamination reveals the ultimate cause.  The lack of motivation of the factory managers who refuse to stop polluting the river could be the result of a lack of appreciation for those living downstream.  One whose sense of community extends to include the people living in the village would be very disinclined to continue a practice that hurts them.  Addressing the problem at this level involves transformation.  Questions of what brings about the sort of personal transformation that expands a person’s ability to identify with or care about others are outside the scope of this paper.  They are not, however, outside the scope of what some organizations can and should be concerned with.

A quick review of the four levels of cause of the Intentionality Model is as follows.  The physical cause of the problem is caused by the actions of humans.  These actions are caused by all that is thought or known about the problem (the cognitive cause).  This knowledge is directed over time by the various motivations that guide individuals and communities (the volitional cause).  These motivations on both the individual and the community level are the result of the placement and degree of the community’s affections (the ultimate cause).  Characterizing the four levels in the other direction, a lack of love leads to a lack of motivation, a lack of motivation leads to a lack of skills and understanding, a lack of skills and understanding leads to physical conditions that cause people to suffer.

It should be stressed again that this particular model is presented as one of many models for analyzing the causes of social problems.  It has the disadvantage of not being particularly good at either explaining or diagnosing social problems.  Its particular strength is in its universality.  Because it stratifies social problems and solutions into levels of causal depth that apply to all problems, it can provide a framework for analyzing the organizational characteristics necessary to achieve results at each level.

Form Follows Function: Causal Analysis and Organizational Characteristics

The benefit of the Intentionality Model is its ability to provide a framework for creating a way of measuring organizational capacity to achieve social change.  Because measurable outcomes bring with them a subtle push towards the symptomatic end of the spectrum, the proposed method is not to track and report outcomes on each of the four levels.  Rather, it is to use the four level analysis of problems, solutions and organizational characteristics to better understand the nature of the organizational forms which are best suited to address the different causal levels.  To this end, the remainder of this paper will do two things.  First, it will support the claim that organizations can achieve greatest effectiveness when they are aligned in certain ways with the above-defined causal levels they seek to address.  Second, it will suggest two characteristics of this causal/organizational alignment.

Between the organizational forms and the addressed causal level is the intervention the organization seeks to provide.  Each of the causal levels requires a different kind of intervention to address it.  Addressing the physical cause often involves crisis intervention or resource allocation.  Addressing the cognitive cause requires education.  Addressing the volitional cause involves increasing self-awareness perhaps through providing emotional support.  And addressing the problem at the ultimate level involves facilitating personal or social transformation.

Notice the form the intervention takes does not dictate the causal levels that a given intervention addresses.  For instance, an intervention that takes physical form may address each of the four levels.  Interventions often have one primary target level and secondary implications for each of the other three. For example, a soup kitchen, homeless shelter or literacy program may restore confidence in a way that impacts the volitional level if administered with respect.

To see some ways that organizational forms should correspond to the causal levels they seek to address, it will help to examine the relationship between the goals and forms of a specific organization.  My interest in the causal analysis of social problems and their relationship to different organizational forms comes from eight years co-founding and co-directing COVER Home Repair, a non-profit that uses volunteers to complete urgently needed home repair projects in the Upper Valley Region of Vermont and New Hampshire.  COVER addresses its region’s problem of housing disrepair on each of the above-mentioned causal levels.  Because the early stages of its evolution involved passing through a variety of organizational forms, COVER’s early years provided a good theatre for observing the relationship between different organizational forms and organizational capacity to achieve goals at different causal levels.  A discussion of the ways COVER addresses the problem of housing disrepair will indicate ways that organizational forms correspond to the causal levels they address.

Figure 2. COVER’s analysis of the causes and solutions of the problem of housing disrepair

Causal Level:

four-level causal analysis of housing disrepair:

Corresponding solution COVER pursues:

1. Physical Cause

housing in disrepair including leaking roofs, sagging floors, leaky windows and doors

completes home repair projects

2.Cognitive              Cause

lack of home repair skills, lack of community building skills, lack of awareness of the problem

teaches home repair and community building skills, builds community awareness

3. Volitional Cause

feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, and isolated on the part of the homeowner and to a lesser extent the support community

builds inclusive community on the job-site, at gatherings and in the organization

4. Ultimate Cause

disconnection across socioeconomic lines and within neighborhoods and families

offers individuals a vehicle for building bonds of affection with people outside their immediate community


The causal chain that results in the problem of inadequate housing begins with the breakdown of the bonds of affection that bring people together in service to one another. For people struggling with providing for their housing, the lack of support leads to a feeling of isolation.  When housing problems persist, this feeling of isolation can translate into feeling overwhelmed and hopeless about the situation.  The volitional cause also includes similar feelings on the part of the would-be support network. These feelings may be less intense, due to being distributed to a wider group, but the personal cost of feeling cut off from those who need one’s help is easy to underestimate.  The cognitive cause that results from this motivational breakdown on the part of both the homeowner and the surrounding community is that the skills for completing home repair, for fostering a support network and for providing needed support never develop.  The physical cause that results from this is housing disrepair.

Because addressing a problem at only the physical level can both hide the problem and foster dependency, providing home repair exclusively could do more harm than good.  For this reason, the central question that emerges within COVER is what organizational forms should be employed to help the organization use the volunteer home repair experience to develop skills, build hopefulness in the community and develop affection between homeowners and volunteers. The following two answers to this question suggest two characteristics of organizational forms that need to correspond to the causal levels they seek to address. These are “motivational level” and “organizational dualism”.


The sort of motivation that volunteers, staff, board members, funders and clients bring to their involvement with COVER directly impacts which causal levels the organization is able to address.  Roughly speaking, the more the organization takes its work to heart, the deeper the level of cause it will be able to address.  Though this is the case with each of the five major constituencies, it is easiest to see in the case of the volunteers.

People are motivated to volunteer for a variety of reasons.  These reasons can be broken down into (possibly artificial) categories that correspond to the four causal levels.  Corresponding to the physical level, some volunteers are mandated by the court system or come to fulfill requirements for a group to which they belong.  Corresponding to the cognitive level, some come because they think it is the right thing to do.  Corresponding to the volitional level, some arrive as the result of desiring the wellbeing of others.  At the ultimate, some act out of affection.

COVER’s homeowners are in the vulnerable position of asking for help and meeting strangers on the basis of their misfortune.  This often involves exposing areas that make them feel inadequate to people who have not yet earned their trust. Due to this vulnerability, the homeowners’ interpretation of the volunteers’ motivation impacts the extent to which they will participate in the home repair process. For this reason, though a strict one to one correlation can not be made, the volunteers’ level of motivation will roughly correspond to the level of cause addressed in the homeowner.

This correlation can be traced through the four levels.  If the homeowner believes that the volunteer’s motivations have nothing to do with them, only the physical cause can be addressed as they will be unlikely to participate any more than they have to.  If the homeowner understands that the volunteer is trying to do “the right thing”, they will generally participate enough to learn some of the skills involved with home repair and hosting volunteers and the cognitive cause will be addressed.  If they understand that the volunteer’s work is an expression of concern for them, they will feel encouraged and bolstered by the fact that they are being taken into account and the volitional cause can be addressed.  When the homeowner recognizes the volunteer’s work as an expression of affection, the ultimate cause is addressed as friendships develop and the community of both volunteer and homeowner is expanded.  In this way, the volunteer’s level of motivation has an impact on the level of cause the organization can address in the homeowner.

The same correlation between motivational and causal levels holds for the other four above-mentioned constituencies as well.  For example, the homeowner’s level of motivation has a reciprocal impact on the level of cause that can be addressed in the volunteer. Similarly, because the volunteer is also in a position of vulnerability, the ability to form a job-site community is equally dependent on the motivations of the homeowner.  Because COVER also seeks to express the inclusive community between homeowner and volunteer in the rest of the organization as well, a correlation between the level of motivational and causal levels will also be found in the activities of the staff, board members and funders.

Examining this same general correlation between motivational and causal levels in the work of teaching supports the case that this correlation applies to other organizations as well.  Corresponding to the physical cause, teachers whose work is motivated exclusively by a desire to draw a paycheck, can keep students out of harms way, but will have a harder time getting students to remember the information for long.  Corresponding to the cognitive cause, teachers that have some degree of interest in the material, the act of teaching or the students will have more success getting students to learn.  Corresponding to the volitional cause, teachers whose work is fueled by their passion for the material, the wellbeing of the students or the act of teaching can change not just what the students know, but also what they want.  In such cases, students can be inspired to pursue different paths in life.  At the level of the ultimate cause, teachers occasionally inspire the student so profoundly that the student’s ability to connect with the world is increased.  The strongest conviction and affection on the part of the teacher only can motivate the work of bringing about this degree of personal transformation.  In this way, we can see also a connection between the teacher’s motivation and the causal levels of the student that are affected.

If this correlation between motivational and causal levels is found to pertain in a general way to organizations, it would have particular implications for the search for organizational forms to support social change. For example, agencies that seek to address deeper causal levels may want to incorporate policies that foster a more personal motivation on the part of its constituencies.    Practically every policy and practice of an organization impacts motivation, but particularly those of decision making and staff management.

For example, if consensus oriented methods of decision making foster stronger stakeholder motivation, organizations that pursue deeper causal levels may want to sacrifice greater efficiency in order to err in that direction.  Similarly, if affording greater autonomy to staff fosters more personal motivation, such organizations with deeper goals may want to sacrifice the benefits of greater uniformity and control in order to develop staff motivation in this way.

A more specific example is board member or employee selection criteria.  Organizational theorists have debated as to whether board members or employees who do not have a commitment to the outcomes of a given organization should be considered for openings.  Emphasizing criterion such as demonstrated passion for the goals of the organization, the ability to bring personally meaningful contributions to organizational discussion, and demonstrated concern for the well being of society, may mean giving up other areas that strengthen the organization in other ways.  Despite this, if there is a correlation between motivational andcausal levels, organizationswanting to pursue a vision of deeper change may want to prioritize intake criterion of this sort.  The suggested relationship between motivational and causal levels is presented as one way that organizational forms correspond to the level of cause that they seek to address.


Organizational Distinction from Served Community

A second answer to the question of which organizational forms COVER needs to incorporate in order to cultivate affection between homeowners and volunteers relates with reducing the fundamental distinction that separates them.  If the homeowner feels ashamed of needing help and the volunteer feels self-righteous about providing it, their interaction will be awkward and unpleasant.  In such cases, the potentially most divisive aspect of this relationship is also what brings them together, that one is serving and the other is being served.  For this reason, addressing the problem of housing disrepair at the deepest causal level through forming lasting connections between homeowners and volunteers involves approaching service in a way that reduces the distinction between server and served.

COVER pursues solutions that address deeper causal levels through reducing the organization’s distinction from the community it serves.  COVER reduces this distinction through cultivating an approach to service that includes the benefits to the volunteer as well as the homeowner, incorporating past homeowners in the staff, committee and board structure, and hosting gatherings that staff, volunteers and homeowners can enjoy. COVER also reduces this distinction through building awareness of the roots of socioeconomic divide within the organization.  In short, the community that COVER seeks to build is one that includes the organization itself.

The correlation between the degree of the organization/served community distinction and the causal level that the organization is able to address will hold for other organizations as well.  This can be looked in a general way by observing two progressions observable in figure 3.  The second column examines the relationship between the degree of distinction between the way that the server and the served parties experience a solution at each of the four causal levels.  The third column examines the degree of distinction in the way that the direct experiencer and surrounding community experience a social problem at each of the four levels.  (Here “direct experiencer” is defined as those that directly experience the physical symptoms of the social problem.  “Surrounding Community” is defined as those that indirectly experience the physical symptoms of socail problem.) In both cases, the same trend is found: greater distinction correlates with the symptomatic end of the causal spectrum.  Similarly, greater similarity corresponds with greater causal depth.

Figure 3. Correlating Causal Level with the Degree of Organizational Separation from Served Population.

Causal Level

Degree of Distinction between server and served in the way the solution is experienced, and explanation.

Degree of distinction between direct experiencer and surrounding community in the way the problem is experienced, and supporting argument

General trend

Physical Cause

The server and served for are at opposite ends of the activity.  One is getting resources and the other is losing them, so their experiences of the solution to the problem at the physical level are directly opposed.

The social problem manifests for the direct experiencers and for the surrounding community in completely different ways.  By definition, the surrounding community does not directly experience the physical symptoms of the social problem.

Experience of solution of server and served and experience of problem of direct experiencer and surrounding community are direct opposites.


Cognitive Cause


The relationship between server and served is characterized by a greater degree of transaction than at the physical level.  For example, a teacher’s ability to communicate is linked to his or her ability to listen to and understand his or her audience.  Moreover, it is easier to teach something if one is willing to also learn from the student.


Both direct experiencers and the surrounding community may lack the knowledge, understanding or skills for preventing or cureing the problem.   This knowledge may be different for each, but each has something to learn.  The way the problem is experienced by the experiencers and the surrounding community is less distinct than at the physical level.



Some similarity between experience of solution of server and served and expereience of problem of direct experiencer and surrounding community.

Volitional Cause

When the solution builds the motivation to resolve the problem of the helped persons, the motivation of the helper is increased as well.  In this way, the impact of the solution at the volitional level is shared to some extent by server and served.


The lack of motivation that causes the problem is to some extent shared by both the direct experiencers and the surrounding community.  Whether the problem feels hopeless, overwhelming, too big to tackle or like someone else’s responsibility, the way the problem is experienced by the direct experiencers and the surrounding community has more in common at the volitional level than it does at the cognitive level.

Greater similarity between experience of solution of server and served and expereience of problem of direct experiencer and surrounding community.

Ultimate Cause

When a transformative experience that impacts the extent to which people identify and connect with one another, the effect is shared by both server and served.  At the most profound level, there is no distinction between server and served.


The problem is experienced equally, as such, by all members of society regardless of whether they are bearing the brunt of any particular social ill.  In this way, the way the problem is expereinced is the same for both the direct experiencers and for the surrounding community


No distinction between experience of solution by server and served and experience of problem by direct experiencer and surrounding community.

Because the organization is both part of the surrounding community and in the roll of server, these two correlations have implications for how organizations should structure themselves.  Taken together they imply that the level of distinction between the organization and the served population is one of the ways that organizational forms should correspond to the level of cause they seek to address.

There is a wide array of organizational forms that impact the boundary between the organization and the served community.  These include everything from decision-making processes and the roll of volunteers, to the extent to which the problem is seen as existing inside the organization and the extent to which the organization pursues change inside the organization as well.

Corresponding Organizational Characteristics with Causal Levels

In the section on motivation, it was suggested that the level of organizational motivation that leads to the organization’s work corresponds to the causal level that the organization can address.  The section on organizational distinction from served community suggested that a similar correspondence can be found between the degree of the organization/served community distinction and the level of cause that the organization is able to address.  Thus, motivation and organizational distinction from served population represent two organizational characteristics that will achieve greatest effectiveness when they correspond with the causal levels they seek to address.

Characteristics like these need to be understood and measured by foundations that seek to achieve greatest impact through helping organizations “go upstream” by addressing the underlying causes of current social problems.  Conducting case studies on organizations that pursue goals at multiple levels of cause, and asking the question of which forms are supportive of outcomes at which causal level may reveal other general trends in the way organizational forms and causal levels should correspond.

Taken together, these trends in organizational characteristics will form a tool for measuring the social change capacity of organizations, programs and individual policies and procedures. This tool will be useful for both philanthropies and non-profits.  For philanthropies, it can be used to measure the organizational capacity of projects and proposals.  For non-profits, it will be helpful in evaluating specific policies and procedures to ensure causal alignment between the organization and the desired outcomes.


The financial constraints on the non-profit sector put the philanthropy sector in the roll of direction setting in relation to the work of non-profits.  A reliance on outcomes measurement in guiding fund allocation has a conservative effect on the non-profit sector because it influences non-profits towards symptomatic solutions.  This influence comes to seem out of step with the change oriented approach to social welfare that is suggested among other things by the information that the scientific community is producing about the relationship between current levels of carbon consumption and global health.  If the solutions needed in this day and age require broader societal change, the non-profit sector needs to play a part in this transition, and the philanthropy sector needs to lead.

To be equipped for this type of leadership, the philanthropy sector needs metrics for social change in order to push the solutions offered by organizations causally upstream.  Because of the diversity of causal factors that they consider, conventional models for tracing causal pathways do not lend themselves to a standardized way of measuring the degree of causal precedence that can be addressed by an organization.  For this reason, metrics for social change require a new model for tracing causal pathways that can apply in a standardized way to all organizations, solutions and social problems.  Because of its universal application, the above-presented Intentionality Model provides a framework for creating this metric.  The metric for social change capacity can be devised by studying the ways that organizational characteristics correspond to the causal levels they are appropriate for addressing.

Glossary of Terms

causal pathway                        A sequence of events or conditions leading to a specified result such that each event or condition is caused by the preceding and causes the following

causal precedence
                   Relative position of priority in a sequence of events that are causally linked.  For example, in a causal chain where A causes B and B causes C, A and B have causal precedence in relation to C.

causally upstream                    Having a position of greater causal precedence



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Sanderson, Stephen K. 1999. Macrosociology, An Introduction to Human Societies, 4th Edition, NewYork, Addison Wesley Longman.  Materialist vs. Idealist Strategies, 4-7