How to develop a program logic for planning and evaluation

This resource has been designed for Communities for Children service providers, but may be used by anyone who is interested in developing a program logic.

What is a program logic?

A program logic model sets out the resources and activities that comprise the program, and the changes that are expected to result from them. It visually represents the relationships between the program inputs, goals and activities, its operational and organisational resources, the techniques and practices, and the expected outputs and effects. Other terms that are commonly used for models that depict a similar causal pathway for programs are theory of change, program theory and logic models.

Why do a program logic?

The purpose of a logic model is to show how a program works and to draw out the relationships between resources, activities and outcomes (Lawton et al. 2014). The logic model is both a tool for program planning - helping you see if your program will lead to your desired outcomes - and also for evaluation - making it easier to see what evaluation questions you should be asking at what stage of the program.

A program logic is a critical element in program planning and evaluation because it sets out a graphic and easily understandable relationship between program activities and the intended outcomes of the program. A program logic is a "living document", that is, it should be reviewed regularly to see if it is still an accurate representation of the program or if it needs to be adapted.

What does a program logic look like?

There are many different types of program logic. We have prepared a template with guidance (Figure 1) about how to develop an outcomes based program logic, and an example of a completed program logic (Figure 2). There is also a blank template (DOC 234 KB) which can be downloaded and used to develop your own outcomes based program logic.

Figure 1: Program logic template with guidance - Download program logic template with guidance as a PDF (51 KB)

EXPP program logic template with guidance

Figure 2: Example of a completed program logic - Download example of a completed program logic as a PDF (49 KB)

EXPP program logic sample

How to develop a program logic

There are several elements in a program logic. It makes sense when planning and thinking through a program to begin with the problem statement and then work backwards from your long term outcomes. Once you have the major elements in place, consider the assumptions and external factors as a way to identify potential risks that may prevent you from achieving your outcomes. The different elements are laid out in this order below.

Problem statement

Developing your problem statement is the first step. It will establish the issue or problem that your program is going to address. Your problem statement should be both targeted and specific. It will be a problem that is 'solved' by your goal.

Things to consider are:

  • What is the problem?
  • What are the causes of the problem? What are the causes of these causes?
  • Who is impacted by this problem?
  • Who is involved in this problem? Who else is working on it and who cares if it is solved?
  • What do we know about the problem from research, evidence and experience?
  • What do we know about the way the target group experience this issue?

(adapted from Shakman and Rodriguez, 2015)

Long-term outcomes

The long-term outcome should resolve the issue identified in your problem statement and it should fit with your goal. Long-term outcomes are sometimes called 'impact outcomes'. Long-term outcomes usually take a long time to be seen (sometimes up to ten years) and will be influenced by factors which are outside of your control.

Short-term outcomes

Short-term outcomes are the changes you expect to see on completion of your program. These are the easiest to measure, and the timeframe will usually be the length of your program. Short-term outcomes are most often changes in skills or knowledge.

Medium-term outcomes

Medium-term outcomes are what you would expect to follow on from the short-term outcomes you have identified. So if you have identified an increase in staff or parental knowledge as a short-term outcome, the medium-term outcome is likely to be the application of that knowledge, for example a change in behaviour.

Inputs

Inputs are the resources that you have which you are able to draw on to address the problem identified in your problem statement. It is good to think of both the material resources (e.g. funding, physical spaces) and the non-material resources (e.g. staff knowledge).

Outputs: Activities

The activities are the things that you do. This is likely to include running the program and training staff. It might also include developing a program manual and resources, or providing referrals to families. It is good to be specific about the numbers of program sessions you will run.

Outputs: Participation

This describes who will be involved. It is good to clearly define the target group for your program and include relevant information about this population group (for example age or cultural background). As well as the target group, you should include information about staff and others that may be involved (e.g. volunteers, staff from other organsiations).

Assumptions

Making assumptions explicit is a really important part of the logic model. Assumptions are the beliefs we have about our program, the people involved, and how it will work. Unexamined assumptions are a big risk to program success. Shakman and Rodruiqez (2015) suggest asking "what is known, and what is being assumed?". It is worth spending some time on this section, and asking a range of people involved in the program to help you identify a full list of assumptions so you can address them.

External factors

This element of a program logic requires you to consider the environment in which your program is being delivered. Economic, political, cultural, historical and social contexts all impact the way your program is delivered, and the outcomes that you can achieve. Likewise, your program has potential to impact some of these factors too. For example, a change in the demographics of an area may mean you need to reconsider the target group for your program.

Program Logic Checklist

This checklist is slightly adapted from a worksheet in the University of Wisconsin-Exchange logic model resources:

  • — Is the model truly logical? Do the inputs, outputs and outcomes link together and make sense?
  • — Is there research, experience or evidence to suggest that the activities will engage the intended participants?
  • — Is there research, experience or evidence to suggest that the outputs will lead to the short term outcomes, and that the short term outcomes will lead to the medium and long term outcomes?
  • — What might be the unintended or negative outcomes?
  • — Are the inputs suitable for the activities?
  • — Does the outputs or activities column make it clear what the program will actually do?
  • — Is each outcome truly an ‘outcome’? It can be easy to confuse outputs with outcomes
  • — Are the outcomes realistic and attainable?

Program Logic and Evaluation

Once your program logic is completed, it is a useful tool to plan your evaluation. The outcomes columns in the project will give you an idea of what you should be trying to measure. It is good to try to measure both short and medium term outcomes.

It is more difficult to measure the long term or impact outcomes, as the impact usually takes a long time to be realised, and there are many external factors that affect it, making it difficult to establish how much of the long term or impact outcome was the result of your program, and how much was the result of external factors.

The CFCA Information Exchange has more resources on evaluation. The following may be particularly useful:

Program Logic Resources

Templates, resources and a free online course are available through the University of Wisconsin-Exchange

A workshop toolkit Logic models for program design, implementation, and evaluation and a reference guide Logic models: A tool for designing and monitoring program evaluation from the US Department of Education.

Evaluation framework for health promotion and disease prevention programs from the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.

Community Sustainability’s Evaluation Toolbox has a guide and some online tutorials.

References

Lawton, B., Brandon, P.R., Cicchinelli, L., & Kekahio, W. (2014). Logic models: A tool for designing and monitoring program evaluations. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Pacific.

McCawley, P., F. (no date) The Logic Model for Program Planning and Evaluation. Idaho: University of Idaho Extension

Shakman, K., & Rodriguez, S. M. (2015). Logic models for program design, implementation, and evaluation: Workshop toolkit. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Northeast & Islands.

Taylor-Powell, E., Henert, E. (2008). Developing a logic model: Teaching and training guide February 2008. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin-Extension. Retrieved from <http://www.uwex.edu/ces/lmcourse/>

Taylor-Powell, E., Jones, L. & Henert, E. (2003). Enhancing program performance with logic models. University of Wisconsin-Extention. Retreived from <http://www.uwex.edu/ces/lmcourse/>

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Office of the Director, Office of Strategy and Innovation (2011). Introduction to program evaluation for public health programs: A self-study guide. Atlanta, GA: Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from <http://www.cdc.gov/eval/guide/CDCEvalManual.pdf>