Kuhn and Popper have revolutionized our understanding of science. Both of their work shows how our observations are theory laden. Our metrics for what qualifies as evidence are theory laden. And our understanding of our observations being theory laden adds to our theory. This helps us to know both how we gain knowledge, and what the limits of knowledge are.
Observation is not the only thing that is theory laden. Our practice is theory laden. The actions we do or do not do are informed by our theory. This understanding has profound implications for the importance of theory in circles seeking social change.
Sometimes theory and practice are seen as opposed within circles seeking social change. Some people lean heavily towards one or the other, and by extension are missing practice that can help their theory, and theory that can help their practice. Perhaps the reason some tactics are ineffective is because our theory that informs what tactics we should and shouldn’t use is wrong. Theory doesn’t just inform us about what we should do, but where we want to go. Through understanding the limits of knowledge and the fact that we can almost always get closer approximations to the truth (and by extension better tactics for achieving desired ends, and better desired ends), we should realize that theory plays an important role.
Frameworks for viewing human cognition, behavior, relationships, systems, and development are extremely important for anyone concerned about changing human cognition, behavior, relationships and systems. The relationship is symbiotic, our practice (and observation of our practice) is informed by our theory and our theory is informed by our practice (and our observation of our practice). To ignore the dialogue between theory and practice, is to lessen our understanding of both.