We did an evaluation training two weeks ago in New York at the Support Center for Non-Profit Management. Like many introduction to program evaluation trainings, this one included a section on logic models. Logic models are basically graphical representations of how a program uses resources --> to create activities --> which have tangible results --> that lead to desired outcomes. If you like flowcharts with lots of arrows you'll like logic models, if you like Microsoft Visio, you'll love them. Here are some places to find examples: The Two Professors, UW Extension Service (extension services seem to love them), or our favorite The Kellogg Foundation Logic Model Guide.
Logic models have lots of uses. Funders like to see them and many require them. They're great for getting a program's stakeholders to sit down and specify their goals and how the work being done everyday will bring about those goals. Underlying any good logic model is a theory about how the world works-- for example, a theory that acquiring knowledge about how to write a resume will lead students to write better resumes and then to get better jobs. Logic models are also useful in designing an evaluation.
Why? Because logic models force those who design them to specify what a program's activities are and what outcomes-- short term, medium term and long term-- will come about once those activities take place. Here's an example: offer resume workshop and job search networking coaching to 20 recently unemployed workers--> workers learn resume writing and networking skills --> workers send out improved resumes --> workers make 10 networking contacts in first two weeks --> workers obtain interviews --> workers get jobs.
It shouldn't be too hard to see how even such a simple logic model like this one could help an evaluator development an assessment plan. Here are some of the questions: How many resume writing workshops took place? How many people attended? Did they take away the required knowledge? How many changed their resumes? How effective were the new resumes (did they implement the knowledge correctly)? How many used the coaching service? Did they view the session positively? Did they understand what was said? Were they able to apply it? How many interviews did they get? How many of the interviews were appropriate? How many started new jobs within a given time frame? The list goes on.
Logic models are useful in evaluation because they require programs to make very specific lists of exactly what they are going to do and what they expect to see after they do it. This is crucial information for an evaluation since it specifies exactly what needs to be measured. Logic models get everyone on the same page and tell evaluators, in concrete terms, what they need to look for. That's what makes them so valuable. So it shouldn't be surprising that nearly every "Intro to Evaluation" training we've ever observed has devoted a lot of time to logic models.
But we believe that their strengths have led evaluators to adopt logic modeling uncritically. Check back in a couple of days to see what we have to say on the subject.