In any introductory course on program evaluation, you are likely to learn about logic models. You may not be familiar with logic models or you may have questions on why and how logic models can be used to help with planning or evaluating your program. The purpose of this article is to describe logic models, the purpose of using logic models, and to provide some tips and resources for developing a logic model for your program. Creating a logic model can seem like a time-consuming process that you may be tempted to skip over. By the end of this article, hopefully I have clarified logic models, what they entail, and simplified the process for creating your own.
What is a logic model?
A logic model is a planning tool that is used to visualize the inputs and activities for a program and the expected program outcomes. It shows how a program works. Logic models typically have the following six categories: inputs, activities, outputs, short-term outcomes, intermediate outcomes, and long-term outcomes. Imagine a hypothetical community health program designed to increase healthy eating among young adults when reading the logic model components and examples below.
- Inputs: includes any resources that are needed to operate the program or initiative (e.g. funding, space to hold meetings)
- Strategies/Activities: all program activities and events (e.g. develop curriculum, recruit participants)
- Outputs: the direct tangible products of program activities (e.g. six weekly cooking classes)
- Short-term Outcomes: Expected changes immediately following the completion of the program (e.g. changes in knowledge about preparing healthy foods)
- Intermediate Outcomes: mid-range program outcomes that could take place over weeks or months (e.g. increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, weight loss or weight maintenance)
- Long-term Outcomes: longer term outcomes that take place over months or years (e.g. decreased development of chronic diseases)
Why should you create a logic model for your program?
There are many benefits to using a logic model to plan your program and to assist with evaluation. Logic models provide a blueprint essentially that allows program planners, evaluators, and other stakeholders to link program processes with program outcomes. It is therefore helpful in outcome evaluation because it depicts how program components lead to behavior change, or at least the behavior change you hypothesize based on the theoretical framework for your program. In process evaluations, a logic model can be used to assess whether or not program activities were implemented as intended.1 Creating a logic model is often a collaborative process, and by creating it during the program planning stages, it allows the evaluator to be involved earlier in the process rather than coming in to evaluate the program in the end.1
Are you already in the implementation phase of your program, but have never created a logic model? I have worked with several programs who created their logic model for the first time well after their program was launched and running. It is not too late to create your logic model at this point. In fact, it is helpful in making sure that the evaluator is aware of all the existing program components and expected outcomes.
Tips and Tools for Creating Logic Models
Maintain a Logical Flow
Your logic model should flow from left to right. Every input should link to a specific activity, which then links to a specific output, and finally links to a specific outcome. This allows planners to visualize how each aspect of their program flows and connects in order to eventually achieve the intended outcomes of the program. The benefit of creating the logic model in this way is that it allows you to see how each component is essential to program outcomes. If there is a breakdown in the process, intended outcomes may not be achieved. The logic model therefore allows the creators to examine any breakdowns in program implementation in a way that depicts what may have led to shortcoming in program outcomes.
Finally, there are a variety of online tools and templates for creating logic models. When working collaboratively within a group, however, creating a logic model using notecards, sticky notes, or other tangible markers is an easy way to manipulate the different parts of the model. For example, try using sticky notes to visualize each section and its items, using a different color sticky note for each section. Sticky notes can be easily moved around as you develop the logic model before creating the final logic model electronically.
Revisit your Logic Model
Finally, logic models are not static documents, but may change over time. As your program grows and develops, these changes should be reflected in your logic model. Allocate time to revisit your logic model and reflect on new developments or directions in the program. I recommend revisiting logic models annually.
Below are some additional resources on creating logic models.
- Logic Models for Program Design, Implementation, and Evaluation: Workshop Toolkit
- CDC Evaluation and Documents, Workbook and Tools: Logic Models
- Logic Model Template