Logic Model<ref name="W.K. Kellog Foundation">W.K. Kellog Foundation Evaluation Handbook. Retrieved September 12, 2006 from http://www.wkkf.org/Pubs/Tools/Evaluation/Pub770.pdf</ref>
One effective method for charting progress toward interim and long-term outcomes is through the development and use of a program logic model. A program logic model is a picture of how your program works—the theory and assumptions underlying the program. A program logic model links outcomes (both short- and long-term) with program activities/processes and the theoretical assumptions/principles of the program. This model provides a roadmap of your program, highlighting how it is expected to work, what activities need to come before others, and how desired outcomes are achieved.
There are multiple benefits to the development and use of a program logic model. First, there are program design benefits. By utilizing a program logic model as part of the evaluation process, staff will be able to stay focused better on outcomes; connect interim outcomes to long-term outcomes; link activities and processes to desired outcomes; and keep underlying program assumptions at the forefront of their minds. In short, the process of creating a program logic model will clarify your thinking about the program, how it was originally intended to work, and what adaptations may need to be made once the program is operational.
Second, the program logic model provides a powerful base from which to conduct ongoing evaluation of the program. It spells out how the program produces desired outcomes. In this way, you can decide more systematically which pieces of the program to study in determining whether or not your assumptions were correct. A program logic model helps focus the evaluation on measuring each set of events in the model to see what happens, what works, what doesn’t work, and for whom.You and your evaluation team will be able to discover where the model breaks down or where it is failing to perform as originally conceptualized.
Logic model or theory-based evaluation is also an effective approach for evaluating complex initiatives with intangible outcomes (such as increased community participation) or long-term outcomes that will not be achieved for several years. A program logic model lays out the interim outcomes and the more measurable outcomes on the way to long-term and intangible outcomes. As a result, it provides an effective way to chart the progress of more complex initiatives and make improvements along the way based on new information.
Finally, there is value in the process of developing a logic model. The process is an iterative one that requires stakeholders to work together to clarify the underlying rationale for the program and the conditions under which success is most likely to be achieved. Gaps in activities, expected outcomes, and theoretical assumptions can be identified, resulting in changes being made based on consensus-building and a logical process rather than on personalities, politics, or ideology. The clarity of thinking that occurs from the process of building the model becomes an important part of the overall success of the program. The model itself provides a focal point for discussion. It can be used to explain the program to others and to create a sense of ownership among the stakeholders.
Types of Program Logic Models<ref name="W.K. Kellog Foundation"/>
Although logic models come in many shapes and sizes, three types of models seem to be the most useful.
One type is an outcomes model. This type displays the interrelationships of goals and objectives.The emphasis is on short-term objectives as a way to achieve long-term goals. An outcomes logic model might be appropriate for program initiatives aimed at achieving longer-term or intangible, hard-to-measure outcomes. By creating a logic model that makes the connections between short-term, intermediate and long-term outcomes, staff will be able better to evaluate progress and program successes, and locate gaps and weaknesses in program operations. See Figure 1, the Community Health Partnership Program Logic Model, for an example of this type.
Another type of logic model is an activities model. This type links the various activities together in a manner that indicates the process of program implementation. Certain activities need to be in place before other activities can occur. An activities logic model is appropriate for complex initiatives which involve many layers of activities and inter-institutional partnerships. In these cases, every stakeholder needs to have the big picture of how the activities and processes pull together into a cohesive whole to achieve desired outcomes. It also provides an effective means to document and benchmark progress as part of the evaluation process.Which activities have been completed? Where did the program face barriers? How successfully were activities completed? What additional activities and processes were discovered along the way that are critical to program success? An example of this type of program logic model can be seen in Figure 2, the Calhoun County Health Improvement Program Logic Model.
The third type of logic model is the theory model. This model links theoretical constructs together to explain the underlying assumptions of the program.This model is also particularly appropriate for complex, multi-faceted initiatives aimed at impacting multiple target populations (e.g., multiple members of a family, whole communities, multiple institutions or community organizations within a community, etc.). At the same time, a theory logic model is also effective for a simpler program because of its ability to describe why the program is expected to work as it does. See Figure 3, the Conceptual Model of Family Support, for an example of this type.
Oftentimes, program staff will find that they will need to combine two or three of these program logic models. See Figure 4, the Human Resource Management for Information Systems Strategy Network, for an example of this hybrid.
Building a Logic Model:<ref name="W.K. Kellog Foundation"/>
Logic models can be created in many different ways.The starting place could be the elements of an existing program which are then organized into their logical flow. For a new program that is in the planning phase, the starting place could be the mission and long-term goals of the program.The intermediate objectives that lead to those long-term goals are added to the model, followed by the short-term outcomes that will result from those intermediate objectives. An activity logic model can be built in the same way; long-range activities are linked to intermediate and short-range activities.
The key to building any model is to prepare a working draft that can be refined as the program develops. Most of a logic model’s value is in the process of creating, validating, and then modifying the model. In fact, an effective logic model will be refined and changed many times throughout the evaluation process as staff and stakeholders learn more about the program, how and why it works, and how it is being operationalized. As you test different pieces of the model, you will discover which activities are working and which are not.You may also discover that some of your initial assumptions were wrong, resulting in necessary model revisions to adapt it to current realities.You will learn from the model and change your program accordingly; but you will also learn a great deal from putting the program into practice, which will inform the model and provide you with new benchmarks to measure.This iterative evaluation process will ultimately lead to continuous improvements in the program and in staff ’s and other stakeholders’ understanding of the program and how and why it works.
More examples of logic models
- "Developing Your Logic Model"
- "CDC Healthier Worksite Initiative Logic Model Process"
- "The VERB Campaign Logic Model Process"