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The nitty gritty of logic models

Last month I talked about why I love logic models, now, I’m going to focus in on how to create an effective logic model.

I like to apply a backwards design approach when developing a logic model. By starting with the end in mind, it helps you focus on the outcome. This is the same process I apply to program or curriculum development. So you should begin by asking: what do I hope to accomplish from this program? What change do I want to see?

Starting with the outcome in mind, will help ground you. For example, let’s say that you work for a local community health clinic and notice an increase in the occurrence of childhood overweight and obesity. Because of the long-term effects and other chronic diseases associated with the issue, you want to initiate a new program to reduce the number of patients with childhood overweight and obesity. This is the long-term impact of your program.

There are multiple evidence-based programs that you could implement, but since your existing resources limit your capacity to implement certain programs, you must consider how your resources align with potential programs. Beginning from a place of strength enables you to work within your existing capacity. Maybe you have a relationship with the WIC program manager, or your clinic partners with a network of community health workers, or perhaps the clinic has a classroom available.

Now that you have clearly defined your resources, you can move on to mapping out your activities. As you begin to identify each activity, go ahead and jot down the output of the activity. Outputs are the data about the activity. If you decide, for instance, that you can use the classroom space for cooking demos, think through how many cooking demos you will facilitate and how many people should attend each cooking demo. Later, these targets help you track progress and provide some interim sense of accomplishment. But, don’t confuse outputs with outcomes.

One of the most important lessons that I ever learned was from a community leader that I worked with early in my education. She warned me about organizations that are just “checking the box”. What she was referring to was a focus on outputs over outcomes and impact. It is easy to go down a list and check off the outputs. How many people were engaged, how many flyers were distributed, how many outreach events were had, and so on. These outputs should not be confused with the outcomes and impact. The outcomes and impact are the change that drives your program and the reason for your program. This is what moves the needle. In order to determine outcomes you must go a step beyond simply counting numbers. You must measure what is happening as a result of your program. This is what matters and this is what stakeholders want to know.

Now that we have clarified the difference between outputs and outcomes, it is time to define the short- and mid-term program outcomes. Recall that earlier we identified the long-term impact. Short-term or immediate outcomes usually occur within the first 24 months of a program, and they are the change in knowledge, skill, attitude, or motivation that serves as a building block for more significant change. You might anticipate that community members who attend a cooking demonstration will experience an immediate change in knowledge such as learning new recipes that substitute Greek yogurt for sour cream. They are also acquiring new skills through hands-on learning as part of the cooking demos. Building on this you hope that community members then change their behavior and start to apply their knowledge and skills by making changes to their cooking at home. This change often does not occur right away but takes time and is considered a mid-term outcome. Overtime, changes in behavior lead to more significant changes. In this example, the purpose of the program was to reduce childhood overweight and obesity, and this is the impact that we hope to see as a result of the program.

This example walked you through how to use a logic model to develop a new program. If you already have a program in place, it is even easier. Creating a logic model for an existing program can help you think more intentionally about how your program activities align with the outcomes.

Now it’s your turn. Give it a try and see how using a logic model can help you with program development. And, you haven't already downloaded my free guide to creating a logic model, you can find it here. If you get stuck, reach out to me to discuss how I can assist you!

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