The What’s, Why’s, & How’s of Developing a Logic Model: A Guide for Students
My name is Ashley Romano (she/her). I am a fourth-year student in Recreation and Leisure Studies at Brock University. I recently engaged in a placement with Ability Online… MyAbility.ca, an online social media platform designed for young adults (i.e., 18+) with disabilities and health challenges. Within my role as a placement student, I aimed to evaluate members’ experiences using the platform, including engagement, reach, and fulfillment.
Why Do Organizations Need Logic Models?
Logic models are a program administrator’s Swiss army knife; they are a singular compact document with several functions and always beneficial to have on hand. Here are a few reasons why logic models are important (Wells & Arthur-Banning, 2008):
- They provide stakeholders with an easy to follow, comprehensive map of a program: Logic models allow stakeholders (i.e., funders, board of directors, and/or community partners) to clearly see a program in its entirety! For programs even earlier in their life cycle, logic models can help illustrate the intended program components and desired outcomes, even if they have not happened yet.
- They simplify program evaluation: Taking on a program evaluation can seem like a daunting task for program administrators. With a completed a logic model, administrators already have access to a lot of valuable information in terms of assessing if their program is successful or needs some improvements.
- They keep programs on the right path: It can be easy for program administrators to get distracted by the everyday logistical facets involved in running a program and lose sight of the outcomes they originally set out to accomplish. Logic models provide structure to guide the ongoing and/or unforeseen changes a program may be faced with, while ensuring minimal effects on the program’s desired outcomes.
What Does This Mean for Us as Students?
Luckily, we as students have access to the theoretical knowledge, frameworks, and resources necessary to build an effective logic model for community-based organizations. Logic models are essential for program planning and evaluation, and therefore are an amazing way for students to offer support to community-based organizations while engaging in a placement! While organizations know their programs best, the logic model you develop can be a springboard for them to elaborate on.
So, Logic Models … What Are They?
The image below represents some terms that come to mind when considering what a logic model is. Logic models can be understood as a descriptive, sequential model that works to explain how a program functions, relatable to a ‘road map’ (McLaughlin & Jordan, 2015).
Next, below I describe the main components of a logic model (McLaughlin & Jordan, 2015; Savaya & Waysman 2005), which are also depicted in the figure that follows.
- Inputs –What is invested or available for the program (i.e., human, financial, organizational, and/or community resources.
- Outputs – What is done in a program (activities) and who is reached (participants).
- Short-Term or Initial Outcomes – What participants learn. This could include changes in knowledge, awareness, attitudes, skills or intent.
- Intermediate Outcomes – What participants do based on what they learn. This refers participants’ actions and behaviours as a result of their participation in the program.
- Long-Term Outcomes – Who participants become based on what they do. These outcomes are more concerned with broader changes in the community or population as a result of program participation.
‘Contextual Factors’ that are outside of a program’s control are also key components to recognize when developing a logic model. These include:
- Assumptions – Beliefs we have about the program (i.e., participant characteristics, geographical variables and/or economic factors).
- External Factors – Features that emerge as a program runs outside of the program’s control (i.e., staffing changes, downturn or rise in the economy, and/or new or competing programs).
Finally, a logic model can be created at any point in the life cycle of a program and will need to be revised and updated as the program evolves or more program information becomes available (McLaughlin & Jordan, 2015).
Quick Tips & Tricks for Creating a Logic Model
Even with a strong understanding of what a logic model is, and what goes into each component, knowing how to get started can be tricky. Here are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind when getting started:
- Items that go into Inputs can include:
- Financial & Human Resources – funding, staff, board, client, materials.
- Items that go into Outputs can include:
- Activities – How the resources are used? how many? how often? how long
- Participants – Who the program targets (i.e., age, demographics).
- Items that go into Outcomes:
- Short-Term – Linked to learning (i.e., awareness, knowledge, attitudes, skills, opinion, aspirations, motivation, or behavioural intent).
- Medium or Intermediate – Linked to action (i.e., behavior, decision making, policies, social action).
- Long-Term – Linked to conditions (i.e., conditions, social well-being, health, economic, civic, environmental).
- Outcomes should always indicate the direction of the intended change:
- Increased, raised, enlarged, expanded, or improved
- Decreased, lowered, shortened, reduced, or prevented
My Experience Creating a Logic Model
Overall, my experience creating a logic model was positive, despite a few challenges. I will share a few of the trials, tribulations and successes I faced during the creation of an original logic model.
First, MyAbility.ca is a relatively new site, so there was no pre-existing logic model to work from. I had the theoretical knowledge and frameworks necessary to get started from coursework and other resources, but as a placement student that was new to the website, I had a lot of work to do.
I began by gathering as many examples as possible of the type of information that should go in each element of the logic model (summarized above in the main elements of a logic model). From there, I knew the next step in creating my logic model would require a lot of research.
I was able to find the majority of the information to complete my logic model on MyAbility.ca and AbilityOnline.org, the sister site. However, there was a significant portion of program information I could not source on my own (i.e., financial inputs, human resources, and intended outcomes). For these elements, I relied heavily on communications shared with my placement supervisor. She was able to provide me with the necessary information from sources I would not have been able to find on my own (i.e., community partnership guidebooks, and volunteer training modules).
My logic model was by no means ‘perfect’; I ended up going back a few times and adding more information and that’s okay! Remember, logic models are working documents meant to evolve and change to accurately represent the program.
In the end, my logic model covered all five elements, accounted for both the assumptions and external factors, and provided my placement supervisor with a tool to aid in stakeholder recruitment and program evaluation. I am proud of the work I put into creating a useable logic model for MyAbility.ca. Through sufficient preparation, research, and communication I trust anyone can successfully create a usable logic model for their organization.
McLaughlin, J. A., & Jordan, G. B. (2015). Using logic models. In K.E. Newcomer, H.P. Hatry, & J.S. Holey (Eds.), Handbook of practical program evaluation, (4th ed., pp. 55-80). John Wiley & Sons Inc. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119171386
Savaya, R. & Waysman, M. (2005). The logic model: A tool for incorporating theory in development and evaluation of programs. Administration of Social Work, 29(2), 85-103. https://doi.org/10.1300/J147v29n02_06
Wells, M.S., & Arthur-Banning, S.G. (2008). The logic of youth development: Constructing a logic model of youth development through sport. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration, 26(2), 189-202.