The first step in creating a strong evaluation plan for any program or organization is to take an inventory of the inputs, outputs, and identify the ideal outcomes. This is done through using the common evaluation process of creating a Logic Model. Amanda Babine, Director of Evaluate for Change, gives organizations 5 tips that will allow them to build a strategic logic model that measures what really matters. First, let’s review the basics of a Logic Model.
What is a Logic Model?
A Logic Model demonstrates how an intervention (a project, a program, a policy, a strategy) is understood to contribute to possible or actual impacts. It can include positive impacts (which are beneficial) and negative impacts (which are detrimental).
Parts of a Logic Model
Inputs > What We Invest
Outputs > Activities (What We do) & Participation (Who We Reach)
Outcomes > Short, Medium, & Long Term Outcomes
Our staff have produced many best-practices in creating a Logic Model through advising dozens of organizations through the process. Let’s review 5 of them that can help you create a stronger Logic Model for your organization or program.
Number 1: Use a Template
In order to structure your Logic Model correctly, utilize a template. A template can help you organize your thoughts and process in a more efficient way. It will also help you understand the linear process a Logic Model follows. Keep in mind though, outcomes are not always perfectly linear. See more on that below!
Number 2: Take an Inventory of Your Resources
People normally rush though the inputs section. However, this is a crucial piece of the equation. Ultimately, you are looking at what resources you have. This section aids organizations in measuring their true capacity. For example, if you only have the staff time of two staff members, but your activities would need three to four staff to complete you’re better able to identify possible solutions. Possible solutions could include prioritizing your work in a way that helps you become efficient or creating an action plan to raise more funds in order to complete what needs to be done.
Number 3: Gauge Internal Health
The activities section helps you gauge your internal health. You do this by listing out what you’re doing, how you’re spending your time and what tasks must be done to achieve your later articulated outcomes. If your activities don’t contribute to reaching the outcomes your team can identify gaps in your efficiency. The way you spend your time is often directly correlated to the outcomes you hope to achieve.
Number 4: Find Hidden Participants
When we think of participants our mind normally goes directly to the primary group we are serving. However, we often have participants that do not fall into the obvious category. For example, for a mentoring program we always think youth, but may forget the adults who have their own personal outcomes. Each participant should have their own list of outcomes. That means adults will have different outcomes than the youth they serve. Additional possibilities for participation: community, teachers, policy makers.
Number 5: Don’t Forget The Process of Change
Change happens over time. A Logic Model is setup to provide an opportunity to see how growth happens over time. When we try to tackle large social issues, we know it will take time to alleviate, abolish, or change that issue so we should focus and celebrate the incremental change. While a program may not have been successful (yet) in reaching their goal that clients become economically self-sufficient, they may have contributed to a change in client knowledge or behavior. Tracking and accounting for that success is crucial. Giving clients the knowledge around financial literacy which changed their spending behavior that will ultimately over time help their financial condition. Think of achieving results in the following way:
Results in Terms of Learning
Results in Terms of Changing Action
Results in Terms of Changing Conditions
There is no reason to leave out the process in achieving your long term goal as an organization. Those programs waiting to report on only long-term goals miss out on celebrating the small wins along the way.