Performance Evaluation as Wayfinding: Building a Logic Model to Tell Your Performance Story

  • Author: Carol Kochhar-Bryant
  • Date: November 12, 2020

 

The previous blog in the Wayfinding series introduced the ‘logic model’ as a special kind of compass and roadmap for a program or initiative.  The logic model shows, in a visual display, the relationships among the resources, activities, and outcomes for your program. In summary, your logic model presents a picture of how your effort or initiative is supposed to work. It explains why your strategy is a good solution to the problem at hand. This blog walks through the steps for developing a logic model. 

Key Steps to Develop a Logic Model

First, gather up information that is available on the program, including but not limited to:

  • Mission and vision
  • Goals and objectives
  • Current program descriptions such as websites, program descriptions, fact sheets
  • Strategic plans
  • Business, communication, and marketing plans
  • Existing/previous logic models
  • Existing performance measures and/or program review

Second, review the information and extract from it to create a ‘working’ table with at least three-columns (left to right) that include:

Column 1: Defining the problem. Summarize the problem and its causes.

Column 2: Activities – What the program and its staff do.

Column 3: Outcomes – Who or what beyond the program and its staff needs to change and how is it expected to change. In generating outcomes, it helps to Identify the target audiences for program activities and the action they must take in order for the activities to be successful.

Within column 3, identify the short-term outcomes (results), as well as longer-term outcomes. What is the big public problem you aim to address with your program?

Third, clarify the activities and outcomes with stakeholders to ensure that you have classified things appropriately, have no activities that are actually outcomes, and no outcomes listed that are actually activities. You have no redundancies in the list of activities or outcomes, and no missing activities or outcomes.

Fourth, decide whether the activities should be ordered sequentially. If so, think about the “logical” relationship among the activities—which may or may not be the same as how they unfold over time— and determine if some activities need to occur before others can be implemented. Order the activities within the columns into earlier or later activities to reflect the sequential relationships.

Fifth, check in with your stakeholders. To ensure the activities and outcomes reflect their understanding of the program to ensure:

  • There are no major missing activities or outcomes
  • The logical progression of activities
  • The logical progression of the outcomes

Discuss the intended uses of the logic model (i.e., assess implementation, assess effectiveness, performance measurement, strategic planning, communication with stakeholders or funders). 

Sixth, create a narrative to go with the logic model. A one-page logic model will not be able to capture all the nuances of the program. The narrative will help explain the components of the logic model and how they work together to accomplish the outcomes. This is particularly important if the logic model is used in a grant application.

Reinvest Your Results: Using Logic Models to Tell Your Performance Story and Support Sustainability

What do logic models have to do with long term sustainability of a program? Sure, grant makers often ask applicants to include a logic model (or theory of action) with their application – but that doesn’t answer the question.  What is the value of a logic model?

The steps above stressed the importance of clarifying the outcomes of your program, service, or new initiative. Among the most important outcomes are its results — how you are changing the lives of your customers/participants and the greater community.  A type of outcome that tends to be left out of logic models is the important work you do to communicate those results with the community—to ‘reinvest’ them to expand your vision and work. How do you tell your performance story?  

Examples of these ‘reinvestment’ outcomes that can be built into your logic model include the following:

  • Communication of the results of your program’s final year (or latest year of service).
  • Communication of the results of your new initiative or launch – what are the impacts on participants? On collaborators? On the greater community?
  • Identification of community partners interested in continued funding of the project.
  • Creation of new or expanded partnerships to expand your program and services.
  • Identification by the program, based on years of experience, of newly emerging needs in the community that require resources for sustaining or expanding the program/services.
  • Communication of new solutions that were identified during the program operation, or launch of a new initiative, which helped overcome barriers.
  • Communication of results on how the program strengthened accessibility for all members of the target population, or included new populations in the service catchment area.
  • Communication of results on how the program improved specific outcomes for participants/clients such as access to health services, obtaining employment opportunities or decreased absenteeism on the job, increased socialization, and increased quality of life.
  • A plan to seek additional grant funding.

Outcomes such as these are valuable to include in a logic model that you share with stakeholders, including potential funders for long-term sustainability of your program. Including these outcomes signals that you are planning for sustainability, focused on sustainability related outcomes, and envisioning your future. Including such outcomes answers questions they will ask about your results, and how your program/ services benefit the target participants, the greater community, or long-term community development goals.

With a clear logic model, the funding agency can see how their dollars will be linked to concrete results. A logic model is about communication – it demonstrates how your program and resources will lead to long-term results that are of interest to all stakeholders.  

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Carol Kochhar-Bryant is an Evaluation Consultant with the National Center for Mobility Management, and Professor Emeritus at the George Washington University, Washington D.C. She lives in Reston, Virginia.

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