Logic models have been used since the 1970s, but gained popularity in the 1990s when United Way started using them with its agency partners. Logic models graphically express the step-by-step process of organizing appropriate resources and activities that then produce the intended outputs and outcomes of a program or organization. Internally, they can be used to monitor and evaluate work. Externally, the best logic models can summarize the purpose of a program in a way that a written statement cannot. (If logic models are new to you, we have a link below to the classic guide from the Kellogg Foundation. We encourage the use of logic models across all sectors as an excellent starting point for impact measurement.)
Because logic models are now commonplace in many sectors, they have become a perfunctory activity when submitting a grant and are often not utilized once a grant is received. We encourage social sector organizations to give them a second look (think of yourself as a scientist or detective) and utilize them as a tool to push critical thinking and continuous improvement. Here are the issues a comprehensive logic model assessment should address:
- What was our original hypothesis about our program?
- Based on our experience now, what have we learned?
- What inputs were really used to produce our desired outcome?
- Did we experience any unintended outcomes?
- Does our model take community outcomes into account?
- Have we created or experienced any systemic change?
- Does any new research in our field address what works?
- Given the above, what should we modify next year?
TIP: While the original logic model from the 1990s is classic, we have found that in the 21st century, with the emphasis on community-building and two-generation programs (stay tuned for a future blog on this innovative trend), it needed a facelift. We created a “layered logic model” for many of our clients who are serving multiple populations (e.g. women and children) and/or have community-driven outcomes. It creates clarity about who you are impacting and what outcomes you expect for each population. Consider upgrading your logic model with this approach – you can find a template below.