Understanding the Overall Program: Logic Models Make It Easier to Run Towards the Goal
Often when you are preparing for an evaluation, it is helpful to do what is called a logic model. I describe the process of creating a logic model below. Logic models help program planners and program evaluators chart out where the program started, where it is trying to get to, and what strategies it is using to go from the starting point to the end point. Logic models help us see whether there may be problems with the program trying to achieve too much, having expectations that cannot be met with the available strategies, or simply going in too many directions.
To start to understand logic models, consider the following example:
"I really need a car right now but I can't afford one. How will I ever be able to get a car? Wait…if I save $200 each month, I could get a used one selling for $1000 in just 5 months."
- Current Situation - no car and no money to buy a car
- Goal/Desired Situation - to buy a car
- Plan to Achieve Goal - save $200 a month for five months
Congratulations, you have just worked through a simple logic model!
What's a Logic Model?
Logic models are a way to plan out how to reach a desired condition. Oftentimes a person or an organization has many great goals that it would like to achieve. However, the way to achieve those goals is sometimes difficult to determine and people end up feeling more overwhelmed than empowered.
Logic models can help make sense out of seemingly unattainable goals by getting ideas onto paper and into an explicit schema that will result in a concrete action plan.
Creating a logic model consists of the following three steps:
- Listing the current conditions (i.e., what's going on now; what's the present situation like?)
- Listing the desired conditions (i.e., goals)
- Listing the strategies that can be used to achieve the desired conditions
Schematic Example of a Logic Model
One of the best reasons to use a logic model is that it serves as an active way for to see current conditions and then to also clearly see what the desired conditions are. Additionally, it allows an organization to determine whether there is agreement on what the current conditions are and what the desired conditions should be. This logic model will help give the organization a clear visual schema that they can use to better achieve their desired conditions. "Active ", "clear " and "visual " are the key characteristics of logic models.
Here is a schematic example of a logic model, using the above example as the subject:
|Current Conditions||Strategies||Desired Conditions|
No money to buy a car
Difficulty in getting around the town
|Place $200 in savings account
Do not touch the saving
account except in emergency
Easier access to fun places
A place to hang my fuzzy dice
Remember, the logic model is not static; it is adaptable and will grow even more useful as organization participants develop and strengthen the logical connections between the strategies and the desired conditions. How might an evaluator or program planner use a logic model in evaluation?
The internal or external evaluator might ask the staff to identify current conditions and desired conditions in order to see if all staff are "on the same page" in terms of what the program is supposed to be achieving. If there are disagreements, this may be a sign that the evaluator should assist the staff in clarifying program goals and objectives.
The internal or external evaluator might study the strategies that the program is using to go from current conditions to desired conditions. Using "best practice" information ( please see "Comparing Your Program Against the Best: Using Best Practices in Evaluations") the evaluator might point out what is missing in the planned or implemented strategies that will make it difficult for the program to meet its objectives.
The internal or external evaluator might use the logic model to focus the evaluation; that is, to see if what the program staff say is important is actually what most of the time, effort, and expense is being dedicated to.
The internal or external evaluator might use the logic model as a way to organize the communications with the program staff. Each report or discussion would remind program staff which part of the logic model is being focused on in this segment of the evaluation.
by Theresa M. H. Milewski