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What is a Logic Model?
  • It is a simplified picture or model of a project, located within a specific context or situation.
  • It shows the logical relationships among the resources that are invested, the activities that take place, and the benefits or changes that result.
  • It portrays the underlying rationale of the project, program or initiative.
  • It is a tool to guide planning, managing, evaluating, and communicating about a project or program or initiative.

Planning - A logic model serves as a framework and a process for planning to bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be. It provides a structure for clearly understanding the context or situation that drives the need for an initiative, the desired end state and how investments are linked to activities for targeted people in order to achieve the desired results. The logic model can be used for the design of specific projects as well as for broad-scale organizational planning.

Project Management - A logic model displays the connections between resources, activities and outcomes. As such, it is the basis for developing a more detailed management plan. A logic model can be used to explain, track and monitor operations, processes and functions. It serves as a framework to monitor fidelity to the plan.

Evaluation - A logic model is the first step in evaluation. It helps determine when and what to evaluate so that evaluation resources are used effectively and efficiently. Through evaluation, we test and verify the program theory – how we believe the program will work. A logic model helps us focus on appropriate ways to measure progress towards identified project goals.

Communications/Reporting - A simple, clear graphic representation facilitates communication about a project, program or initiative, whether it be with/to program staff, those funding the programs, or other key stakeholders.

Elements of a logic model

The situation, problem or issue that a program is to address sits within a context--a complex of sociopolitical, environmental, and economic conditions. Take time to understand the situation and carefully define the problem. This may be the most important step as subsequent decision you make reflect your initial understanding of the situation and context.

Inputs are the resources and contributions that you and others make to the effort. These include time, people (staff, volunteers), money, materials, equipment, partnerships, research base, and technology among other things. These inputs allow us to create outputs.

Outputs are the, services, events, and products that reach the people (individuals, groups, agencies) who participate or who are targeted. Outputs can be divided into activities and participation. Activities are "what we do" or "what we offer." They may include workshops, services, conferences, products, printed materials, surveys, advice, etc… Participation encompasses “who we reach” within the scope of these activities. Outputs are intended to lead to specific outcomes-impacts.

Outcomes - Impacts are the results or benefits for individuals, families, groups, communities, organizations, or systems. Immediate or Short-term outcomes include changes in knowledge, skill development, and attitudes. Medium-term outcomes include changes in behaviors, actions or in decision-making. Long-term outcomes are the ultimate desired impacts of your program. These include sustained changes in social economic, environmental or civic condition. Some examples include increased economic security for families and businesses, improved water quality or reductions in illness. Long-term outcomes appear at the farthest right on the logic model graphic. Please note that due to practical constraints and limitations, it may not be possible to accurately measure long-term impacts.

Assumptions are the beliefs we have about the program, the people involved and the way we think the program will work. Our assumptions can be confirmed or violated through experience, and research. Assumptions underlie and influence the program decisions we make.

The environment in which the program exists includes a host of external factors that can influence the program's success. External factors include the social climate, economic structure, demographic patterns, political environment, the background and experiences of program participants, media influence, changing policies and priorities. These external factors interact with the program. They not only influence the initiative but are influenced by the initiative.

Logic models are not fixed or static. They should serve as a fluid and dynamic representation of your program. A logic model for any program should be continually reviewed, revisited and revised in conjunction with the results of evaluations or other insights that reflect a deeper understanding of program assumptions, the external environment or how a program is operating.

Portions of this document were adapted, with permission, from University of Wisconsin Extension and can be viewed on their website at http://www.uwex.edu/ces/pdande/evaluation/evallogicmodel.html