Use Logic Models for Clarity

As I mentioned in my post on The Big Picture, a Logic Model is a useful tool to bring clarity to strategic thinking. Logic Models provide a clear, direct, causal, link between strategies, inputs, actions, outputs, and outcomes, in a single package.

A logic model is a graphic, usually limited to one page per Strategy that looks like this:

Logic Model
Logic Model

Details of the Logic Model

The first column, Problem states the issue we are addressing. This is the same problem described in The Big Picture. It always amazes me how many people get this wrong.

The second column, What We Invest, lists the resources we need to employ to complete the activities. Be specific. It’s not just a budget number. It’s all the resources. e.g. We need 25 volunteers. We need 4 volunteers with licenses. We need 2,000 square feet of warehouse. We need a budget of $25,000.

The third column, Activities, describes what, exactly, we will do with those resources to execute the strategy. These need to be very specific and measurable. e.g. We will teach classes. We will weatherize houses. We will counsel clients. We will do sonograms. We will give presentations on safety.

Some grants require us to detail the dosage and duration of each activity. e.g. Each class will be one hour long and will be held once per week.

The next column details Outputs. Outputs are the direct products of program activities and may include types, levels and targets of services to be delivered by the program. e.g. We will have trained 52 students, counseled 25 people, conducted 32 sonograms, etc.

Our efficiency is a function of the resources employed versus the outputs.

The next three columns list the Outcomes, the effects and impacts we expect to see in the external environment. Remember, the Problem and the Vision are always stated in terms of the state of the external environment.

Outcomes are usually divided into Short-term, Medium-Term, and Long-term impacts for two reasons. First, many programs and strategies last more than one year. If all we listed were the ultimate impacts — the vision — the strategy would be considered to be a failure until the last day. Second, we can measure the shorter term impacts more readily than the longer term impacts.

For example, if our vision involved a world without global warming (Whew! That’s a big one.) and out strategy was to reduce automobile pollution, the output might be a new engine design. The near-term outcome might be a 25% reduction in California CO2 levels. The intermediate outcome might be an 85% reduction in California smog. The long-term outcome might be reduced sea level rise. The short-term can be measured easily and objectively. The Medium-term measurement is more difficult and slightly more subjective. The Long-Term measure is very difficult and quite subjective.

The Outcomes are a measure of the effectiveness of our strategy.

Think of the process as a series of If…Then…statements:

  • Certain resources are needed to operate your program.
  • If you have access to them, then you can use them to accomplish your planned activities
  • If you accomplish your planned activities, then you will deliver the outcomes that you intended.
  • If you accomplish your planned activities to the extent you intended, then your participants will benefit in certain ways.

The  University of Wisconsin Extension website has a wealth of templates, briefings, and tutorials.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a simple explanation of how to prepare logic models and how to use them as you perform. In my experience, most federal government grants and programs require the use of Logic Models in bidding and evaluation. You might as well learn.

The Kellogg Foundation publishes a very comprehensive guide to logic models. This is for the strategy and evaluation wonks.