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The Program Logic Model: What, Why and How?

I Introduction

Increasingly, organizations across public, private and voluntary sectors are being challenged to demonstrate the effectiveness and efficiency of their programs, and to be accountable to managers, funding agencies and taxpayers. One tool that can help organizations achieve these tasks is the program logic model, a diagram that provides a road map for a given program, showing what it is supposed to do, with whom, and why. The program logic model can help organizations to take their program evaluations a step further by involving stakeholders in considering not only whether objectives are achieved, but also whether programs address problems that are appropriate for the particular program and organization.

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II What is a program logic model?

The program logic model is a diagrammatic representation that provides a clear description of a program.

The model includes

* target group(s): the individuals, groups or communities to receive the program, defined on the basis of age, sex, income, health characteristics, area of residence, ethnicity, etc.;

* resources: personnel, volunteers, physical resources, financial resources, information on target group needs, etc.;

* activities: action steps required to achieve program outcomes;

* components: groups of conceptually related activities, such as educating, social marketing, etc.;

* outcomes or objectives: changes or benefits resulting from activities (process, intermediate and long term); and

* indicators: how you will know whether your objectives have been achieved.

Directional arrows demonstrate the causal relationships between elements of the model.

Program logic models are typically developed by workgroups consisting of program planners, evaluators, staff and other stakeholders who are knowledgeable about the program and/or target group. A development process involving a workgroup rather than a single individual promotes greater stakeholder involvement, greater acceptance and commitment to the program, and increased commitment to the use of evaluation results. While there will likely be multiple views about how a program should or does perform, the model development process can lead to a shared vision of the program through discovery and negotiation.

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III Why use a program logic model?

The program logic model has many uses, including

* facilitating program planning and delivery,

* enhancing buy in and team building among program stakeholders and participants by promoting participation and ownership,

* aiding stakeholders in understanding the goals, expectations and outcomes associated with the program,

* demonstrating how different components of a program, such as resources, activities and objectives, are linked,

* helping to integrate program planning and evaluation through the identification of objectives and indicators,

* focusing the evaluation through the identification of key issues and questions,

* assisting in identifying unintended consequences of the program, and

* clarifying the causal assumptions and rationale upon which the program is based (for example, can the available resources be used to achieve the desired objectives?).

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IV How to develop a program logic model

There is no right way to develop a program logic model. No two look the same, and the format depends on the needs of the planners, evaluators and other stakeholders. However, there are common steps that will facilitate model development.

A. Steps in the development of a program logic model

1. Form a small workgroup consisting of program planners, staff, evaluators and other stakeholders. This group will likely need to meet several times to develop and revise the model.

2. Set boundaries for the program: for example, focus on a particular target group and recognize resource limitations.

3. Conduct a review of program reports, planning documents and relevant literature.

4. Make a list of project goals.

5. Define the target group(s): be as specific as possible (consider sociodemographic variables, health characteristics).

6. Outline the program's process or implementation objectives: what will the individuals who implement the program be doing?

7. Outline the process indicators: how will you know if the program activities have been implemented as planned?

8. Outline immediate and intermediate objectives: what are the desired short-term outcomes of the program? Objectives should Include a direction (increase, decrease, alleviate, expand, etc.), and be specific, measurable, realistic, and based on rationale such as a review of the literature, previous experience or epidemiological data.

9. Determine immediate and intermediate indicators or outputs: how will you know when your short-term objectives have been achieved?

10. Outline the long-term objectives of the program: what are the desired long-term outcomes of the program?

11. Determine long-term indicators or outputs: how will you know when the program's long-term objectives have been achieved?

12. List the project activities: what is the program intended to do in order to achieve its objectives? Activities should be driven by objectives rather than determining the objectives based on planned activities.

13. Group program activities into components or strategies (activities that fit together conceptually) such as counselling, social marketing, training, advocacy, coalition building, and educating.

14. Check your logic: is each element of the model causally linked to the next? Are causal linkages realistic? Are objectives clear and measurable? Are activities clear and measurable? Are there other potential activities for achieving the outcomes? Are resources adequate?

15. Verify your logic model with stakeholders and program staff who are not a part of the workgroup and modify accordingly.

B. Using theory in the development of program logic models

Planning and evaluating programs requires an understanding of the different parts of programs and how they are intended to work together to produce outcomes. Underlying this understanding is theory. Various theories can be used to plan programs and program evaluation through the development of program logic models, including individually-oriented theories (such as the health belief model and the stages of change model), and community-oriented approaches (such as community organization and empowerment approaches). Using theory in the development of the program logic model can help you to check your logic by ensuring that the components of the program are causally linked.

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V The program logic model applied

During a session at the recent Health Promotion Summer School held in London, Ontario, Dr. Evelyn Vingilis, Director of the Population and Community Health Unit at the University of Western Ontario, and Dr. Iris Gutmanis, Director of the Southwest Region Health Information Partnership, described the application of the program logic model approach to a prenatal program. In this model, the components include assessment and counselling; information, referral and advocacy; prenatal education; social and emotional support; parenting and post-natal education; and outreach, each of which is more specifically described in the activities section of the model. Short term outcomes, such as "to increase program participants use of health care" and "to establish a baseline for the evaluation of program impacts" follow from the activities, and subsequently lead to long term outcomes, including "to improve birth outcomes" and "to increase the community's capacity for taking care of its own health." These long term outcomes are causally linked to the program goal, "to enhance the health and well-being of women, children and families in London communities." Outcome indicators are also included. This model demonstrates how different activities are targeted to specific target groups in order to achieve short and long term outcomes, thus guiding program implementation and evaluation. In presenting this example, Dr. Vingilis and Dr. Gutmanis remind practitioners to include short term objectives in order to monitor your progress along the way, and also to keep all elements of the model real, do-able and linked.

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VI Conclusion

While logic model development can be a time consuming and detail-oriented process, the end product is a model that is very useful in guiding the implementation and evaluation of a program. Furthermore, the process can facilitate team building and stakeholder buy in, as well as ensuring that implicit program assumptions are made explicit.

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