Logic Models

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Everything You Wanted to Know About Logic Models But Were Afraid to Ask

This paper addresses situations where a private foundation designs an initiative and awards grants to a number of sites to participate in the initiative in their local setting. The basic ideas are applicable to other situations.

What is a Logic Model?

The term "logic model" comes from the evaluation field, but these models don’t just belong to evaluators or the evaluation plan. As the term suggests, they are a basic element of programming that communicates the logic behind a program, its rationale. A logic model’s purpose is to communicate the underlying "theory" or set of assumptions or hypotheses that program proponents have about why the program will work, or about why it is a good solution to an identified problem.

Logic models are typically diagrams, flow sheets, or some other type of visual schematic that conveys relationships between contextual factors and programmatic inputs, processes, and outcomes. Logic models can come in all shapes and sizes: boxes with connecting lines that are read from left to right (or top to bottom); circular loops with arrows going in or out; or other visual metaphors and devices. What these schemata have in common are they attempt to show the links in a chain of reasoning about "what causes what," in relationship to the desired outcome or goal. The desired outcome or goal is usually shown as the last link in the model.

How are Logic Models Different from Action Plans?

Logic models are often confused with "action plans." While there are some overlaps, the difference is subtle but very important. An action plan is a manager’s guide for running the project. It shows, often through a set of program objectives and a timeline or task outline, what staff or others need to do to implement a project (e.g., "hire outreach worker," "launch media campaign," "revise curricula"). A logic model illustrates the presumed effects of hiring an outreach worker, launching a media campaign, or using revised curricula. (For example, "trained outreach workers lead to more information about AIDS getting dispensed in a high-risk neighborhood; increased contacts with outreach workers leads to a greater proportion of hard-to-reach clients coming in for treatment"). These hypotheses about program effects are described in a logic model, are tested in a "theory-based" evaluation, and lead to "lessons learned." If program planners don’t have any hypotheses guiding them, their potential for learning from the initiative is low, and the program is probably in trouble.

Why develop Logic Models?

Logic models are useful for all parties involved in an initiative—the initiating organization’s board members and top administrators, initiative leaders and staff, participating organizations, evaluators, and others seeking to understand the work. Logic models:

• convey the fundamental purpose of an initiative

• show why the initiative is important

• show what will result from an initiative

• depict the actions/causes expected to lead to the desired results

• become a common language and reference point for everyone involved in the initiative

• serve as the basis to determine whether planned actions are likely to lead to the desired results

How Detailed Should Logic Models Be?

Ideally a logic model is contained within a single page with enough detail that it can be explained fairly easily and understood by other people. The value of a logic model is that it visually expresses beliefs about why the program is likely to succeed. Because it is visual, it typically can be more easily remembered. If the model has so much detail, however, or is so complexly drawn that is cannot be remembered, it loses some of its value. On the other hand, if the model is so stripped of information that it consists of just a few abstract headings or generic looking boxes, then it may not communicate the program’s logic well enough to be...
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