Still Don’t Love Logic Models? Here is a New Approach by Michele Ryan, GPC

I have found that in the world of grant professionals, there doesn’t seem to be much gray area when it comes to logic models. Most of my colleagues seem to fall into the “I love logic models!” camp, but I do know there are a few of you out there (time to fess up) for whom those two words bring feelings of fear and anxiety. I am confessing that I, too, fall into that category. To clarify, my problem is with the process of creating the logic model. I do love and appreciate what logic models achieve and the value of the end result but have always struggled with making my thoughts fit neatly into tidy rows and columns. So, for those of you who also think less linearly and need to see the forest before you examine each individual tree, I have some suggestions that have helped me to alleviate logic model anxiety.

So, by now, you are either intrigued to learn more (and I KNOW there are some of you), or you don’t really understand this love/hate relationship. If you are in the latter group, I encourage you to read on because whether you know it or not, you have colleagues who just haven’t admitted their feelings. For those of you who attend training after training in search of that lightbulb moment – only to be handed the typical logic model form we are all used to and told to start listing inputs and activities – there is another way!

I have found that using a storyboard approach to the process has helped me conquer my anxiety and ultimately results in a gold star logic model (and yes, complete with tidy rows and columns)! A storyboard is a visual representation of the change your program will achieve. The key difference here is that you allow yourself the freedom to be a bit messy and follow your natural instinct to look at the puzzle – or program/organization in this case – as a whole (the proverbial forest analogy again here) before you begin separating the pieces for assembly. Here are a few easy to follow steps to get you started:

– Use old school tools (whiteboard, chalkboard, markers, sticky notes, etc…) – the act of physically writing and the flexibility of using sticky notes promotes creativity and makes the process more fluid. Bonus – who doesn’t like a break from the computer screen now and then!

– Think of your program in terms of a sequential story: before, during, and after. This is the heart and soul of the story and documents the change that will occur as a result of the program’s activities. I like to create a separate board for each and use sticky notes to bring the story to life.

  • What is happening in the life of a client, community, etc. before your program? This exercise helps frame the why, or the need/assumptions in the logic model.
  • What happens during the program? These notes will define the inputs and activities for your logic model.
  • What happens after the program? You guessed it – this board will ultimately make up your outputs and outcomes. Think both short and long-term as well as any stepping stones in between.

– Transfer your storyboard into a logic model, either in the format required by the funder – or if there is a choice – a format that best fits your program design. There are options out there that are visually focused and may be more appealing to your creative mind!

My key takeaway here is to approach logic models without the preconceived notion that there is only one correct way to conduct the process. As long as you have ultimately created a sound, thorough representation of your program’s design and impact that is easy for your audience to understand, that is what is important. You may never join the “I love logic models” team, but maybe with a new outlook on the process, you can at least banish the fear and anxiety!

AGS blogs are aligned with the Grant Professional Certification Institute’s Competencies and Skills.

Competency #3: Knowledge of strategies for effective program and project design and development.

Skill 3.04. Identify structures, values, and applications of logic models as they relate to elements of project design.