The Public Sector Logic Model
A logic model is a visual representation of the inputs, activities, outputs and outcomes (see definitions following) delivered by a program. We use a model to present and share our understanding of the relationships between the resources we have to deliver the program, the activities we plan to carry out, and the results we hope to achieve.
Inputs are the human, financial, organizational, and community resources a program can direct toward carrying out activities.
Activities are the tasks, processes, and actions that consume program resources (inputs) to produce outputs.
Outputs are the direct products of program activities e.g. goods, services, information, policy, legislation.
Outcomes are the intended results of the program i.e. impacts, benefits, and consequences.
Whether private, public, or non-profit, each organization follows this 'results chain'.
The prototypical Logic Model sequence of achieving results
Understanding Logic Models
Demonstrating results of public sector programs can be challenging. Logic models are an useful tool to show the 'results chain' that links inputs to outcomes. But there are other advantages; in my experience, the process of building the model often helps improve understanding and agreement about program objectives. An appropriately-designed logic model can also be an effective communication tool.
Developing your model is often an iterative process. Your team may proceed through the components of the model in whatever direction feels comfortable, e.g. from outcomes to activities or vice versa, and may frequently return to these categories to make adjustments, as relationships become clearer.
Your program usually has more influence over nearer-term outcomes. However, even when other influences may alter outcomes, it’s still desirable to measure the final outcomes of the initiative.
The corollary to this is, sometimes the program has done all that can be reasonably expected, but the expected benefits were not achieved because of other influences.
At the program level, immediate outcomes often look a lot like outputs. To distinguish them, focus on the benefit from the customer/stakeholder perspective. Outcomes are measured from an external perspective, outputs from an internal one.
Avoid ‘analysis paralysis’ in attempting to diagram the logic of the program. In building a useful model, the 'perfect' is the enemy of the 'good'. The perfect model cannot be built; real world conditions are too complex.
And a perfect model is not needed in any event. In building your first model your team is only trying to develop and document a 'good enough' understanding of the relationship between the major components of the program. Expect that the model will evolve and improve over time.
A Logic Model Checklist
Here are a few points to consider when trying to determine if your logic model is good enough:
Are all major program goals represented in your model?
Does the model clearly demonstrate outcomes (external or customer/clientele perspective) as separate from outputs (internal perspective)?
Does the 'logic' of the logic model actually make sense? That is, is there a clear causal link between elements of the model? Hint: a logic model can be thought of as a series of 'if-then' statements.
Are the outcomes chosen those that actually deliver value to the program's intended beneficiaries?
What assumption have you made in building your model; i.e. what underlies your 'theory of change' for your program?
Have you sought input from key stakeholders?
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