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Comprehensive Community Initiatives, Improving the lives of youth and families through systems change, a toolkit for federal managers
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Using a logic model

CCIs are complex. Typically they involve diverse stakeholders, multiple programs, and wide-ranging activities that draw on many types of resources — all over a long period of time. To manage this complexity, you need a way to envision the initiative as a whole, tie all the pieces together, and track your progress. You also need a way to make certain the project's activities will eventually lead to the results you have in mind.

Many CCI project staff have found it helpful to plan their CCI projects using a conceptual tool called a logic model. Although it may take different forms, a logic model is usually depicted in a diagram that shows the sequence of relationships between the CCI project's activities, the resources needed to carry out those activities, and the results you want to achieve. Sometimes a logic model is referred to as a "map." Here is one example of a format for a basic logic model.

An example of a format for a basic logic model

The foundation of a logic model is its "theory of change" — the chain of reasoning that explains why you believe your project will make a difference in the problem you want to impact. A theory of change draws on research and knowledge of "best practices" to validate each step on a "pathway" between the interventions you plan and the final outcomes of your CCI project. A logic model is a visual representation of your theory of change.
For example, see the logic model developed for the CCI Project Safe Start.
"A theory of change explains your underlying understanding of the issue you are addressing — it will clarify WHY you are doing what you are doing. A logic model helps to clarify WHAT you are doing — the expected results, short, intermediate, and long-term outcomes — and identifies how the project's activities will contribute to achieving those outcomes."

- W. K. Kellogg Foundation, Evaluation Toolkit (www.wkkf.org)

There are many ways to use a logic model as you plan and implement your CCI project. Here are a few.
  • Use the logic model to involve groups of people in planning. Because the logic model is a visual, public tool, everyone involved in developing the CCI project can view it at the same time. The process of working together to build the model will surface conflicting assumptions and allow you to clarify misunderstandings. In this way, the logic model supports collaboration and partnerships.
    "We recommend that a logic model be developed collaboratively in an inclusive, collegial process that engages as many key stakeholders as possible."

    - W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Logic Model Development Guide, p 7

  • Make the logic model the focus of your planning process. As you work with site representatives, federal partners, providers, and evaluators to design the CCI project, use the process of clarifying the theory of change and developing a logic model to:
    Define the problem the CCI project will focus on and the impact you want to have on the problem.
    Identify the range of activities grantees might choose to engage in to impact the problem.
    Show why you believe the CCI Project's activities will eventually have an impact on the problem, and over what time period.
    Determine performance indicators and outcome measures so that you'll know whether the CCI Project has achieved its goals.
  • Base your solicitation on the logic model. In the solicitation, describe your theory of change and include the logic model to guide applicants in planning their CCIs. Some CCI Project managers have found it useful to ask applicants (and later on, grantees) to develop their own logic models corresponding to the initiative-wide model. See the logic models created for Safe Kids Safe Streets.

  • Use the logic model to plan evaluation. The arrows in the logic model represent steps on a pathway that connects inputs to outcomes and impacts. As you plan the evaluation, your logic model will help you pinpoint specific connections you might want to examine. In this way, you and your evaluator can shape the evaluation to focus on the most important questions, and use evaluation resources efficiently.

  • Use the logic model to integrate TA into your project. Technical assistance is one kind of resource or "input" to your project. By including TA in your logic model, you can show how TA will enable participants to carry out the project's activities, and how TA fits into the CCI project as a whole.

  • Refer back to the logic model throughout the lifetime of your CCI project. Because a logic model gives the big picture of the project, it's handy from the very early stages of thinking all the way through the final evaluation. At any point you can refer to your logic model to remember why you're doing what you're doing, and what you expected would happen as a result. You can track where you are in the process, where you might have gone astray, and what adjustments might be needed to get where you want to go.

Building a logic model can quickly become complicated. There is more than one type of model to choose from, and you may need multiple logic models for different aspects of your CCI Project. We recommend that you consider getting technical assistance to help you map your theory of change and create a logic model. In the experience of many CCI practitioners, the time invested is well worth it.

To learn more about logic models and theories of change (TOC), see

OJJDP's web page on logic models
W.K. Kellogg Foundation Logic Model Development Guide
The Community Builder's Approach to Theory of Change: A Practical Guide to Theory Development
ActKnowledge's Theory of Change