Assignment: Outlining a Logic Model

A logic model is a tool that can be used in planning a program. Using a logic model, social workers can systematically analyze a proposed new program and how the various elements involved in a program relate to each other. At the program level, social workers consider the range of problems and needs that members of a particular population present. Furthermore, at the program level, the logic model establishes the connection between the resources needed for the program, the planned interventions, the anticipated outcomes, and ways of measuring success. The logic model provides a clear picture of the program for all stakeholders involved.

To prepare for this Assignment, review the case study of the Petrakis family, located in this week’s resources. Conduct research to locate information on an evidence-based program for caregivers like Helen Petrakis that will help you understand her needs as someone who is a caregiver for multiple generations of her family. You can use the NREPP registry. Use this information to generate two logic models for a support group that might help Helen manage her stress and anxiety.

First, consider the practice level. Focus on Helen’s needs and interventions that would address those needs and lead to improved outcomes. Then consider the support group on a new program level. Think about the resources that would be required to implement such a program (inputs) and about how you can measure the outcomes. THE LOGIC MODEL (OUTLINE) HANDOUT SHOULD BE COMPLETED AND THE PARAGRAPHS BEING ASKED, SHOULD BE WRITTEN OUT. ALSO, PUT THE HEADLINES FOR EACH SECTION. 

By Day 7

Submit the following:

  • A completed practice-level logic model outline (table) from the Week 7 Assignment handout
  • A completed program logic model outline (table) in the Week 7 Assignment Handout
  • 2–3 paragraphs that elaborate on your practice-level logic model outline. Describe the activities that would take place in the support group sessions that would address needs and lead to improved outcomes
  • 2–3 paragraphs that elaborate on your program-level logic model and address the following:
    • Decisions that would need to be made about characteristics of group membership
    • Group activities
    • Short- and long-term outcomes
    • Ways to measure the outcomes

Week7: Developing a Logic Model Outline Handout

Complete the tables below to develop both a practice-level logic model and a program-level logic model to address the needs of Helen in the Petrakis case history.

Practice-Level Logic Model Outline



Underlying Causes

Intervention Activities


Program-Level Logic Model Outline



Underlying Causes

Intervention Activities


© 2014 Laureate Education, Inc.

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The Petrakis Family

Helen Petrakis is a 52-year-old heterosexual married female of Greek descent who says that she feels overwhelmed and “blue.” She came to our agency at the suggestion of a close friend who thought Helen would benefit from having a person who could listen. Although she is uncomfortable talking about her life with a stranger, Helen said that she decided to come for therapy because she worries about burdening friends with her troubles. Helen and I have met four times, twice per month, for individual therapy in 50-minute sessions. Helen consistently appears well-groomed. She speaks clearly and in moderate tones and seems to have linear thought progression; her memory seems intact. She claims no history of drug or alcohol abuse, and she does not identify a history of trauma. Helen says that other than chronic back pain from an old injury, which she manages with acetaminophen as needed, she is in good health. Helen has worked full time at a hospital in the billing department since graduating from high school. Her husband, John (60), works full time managing a grocery store and earns the larger portion of the family income. She and John live with their three adult children in a 4-bedroom house. Helen voices a great deal of pride in the children. Alec, 27, is currently unemployed, which Helen attributes to the poor economy. Dmitra, 23, whom Helen describes as smart, beautiful, and hardworking, works as a sales consultant for a local department store. Athina, 18, is an honors student at a local college and earns spending money as a hostess in a family friend’s restaurant; Helen describes her as adorable and reliable. In our first session, I explained to Helen that I was an advanced year intern completing my second field placement at the agency. I told her I worked closely with my field supervisor to provide the best care possible. She said that was fine, congratulated me on advancing my career, and then began talking. I listened for the reasons Helen came to speak with me. I asked Helen about her community, which, she explained, centered on the activities of the Greek Orthodox Church. She and John were married in that church and attend services weekly. She expects that her children will also eventually wed there. Her children, she explained, are religious but do not regularly go to church because they are very busy. She believes that the children are too busy to be expected to help around the house. Helen shops, cooks, and cleans for the family, and John sees to yard care and maintains the family’s cars. When I asked whether the children contributed to the finances of the home, Helen looked shocked and said that John would find it deeply insulting to take money from his children. As Helen described her life, I surmised that the Petrakis family holds strong family bonds within a large and supportive community. Helen is responsible for the care of John’s 81-year-old widowed mother, Magda, who lives in an apartment 30 minutes away. Until recently, Magda was self-sufficient, coming for weekly family dinners and driving herself shopping and to church. But 6 months ago, she fell and broke her hip and was also recently diagnosed with early signs of dementia. Through their church, Helen and John hired a reliable and trusted woman to check in on Magda a couple of days each week. Helen goes to see Magda on the other days, sometimes twice in one day, depending on Magda’s needs. She buys her food, cleans her home, pays her bills, and keeps track of her medications. Helen says she would like to have the helper come in more often, but she cannot afford it. The money to pay for help is coming out of the couple’s vacations savings. Caring for Magda makes Helen feel as if she is failing as a wife and mother because she no longer has time to spend with her husband and children. Helen sounded angry as she described the amount of time she gave toward Magda’s care. She has stopped going shopping and out to eat with friends because she can no longer find the time. Lately, John has expressed displeasure with meals at home, as Helen has been cooking less often and brings home takeout. She sounded defeated when she described an incident in which her son, Alec, expressed disappointment in her because she could not provide him with clean laundry. When she cried in response, he offered to help care for his grandmother. Alec proposed moving in with Magda. Helen wondered if asking Alec to stay with his grandmother might be good for all of them. John and Alec had been arguing lately, and Alec and his grandmother had always been very fond of each other. Helen thought she could offer Alec the money she gave Magda’s helper. I responded that I thought Helen and Alec were using creative problem solving and utilizing their resources well in crafting a plan. I said that Helen seemed to find good solutions within her family and culture. Helen appeared concerned as I said this, and I surmised that she was reluctant to impose on her son because she and her husband 20 SESSIONS: CASE HISTORIES • THE PETRAKIS FAMILY seemed to value providing for their children’s needs rather than expecting them to contribute resources. Helen ended the session agreeing to consider the solution we discussed to ease the stress of caring for Magda. The Petrakis Family Magda Petrakis: mother of John Petrakis, 81 John Petrakis: father, 60 Helen Petrakis: mother, 52 Alec Petrakis: son, 27 Dmitra Petrakis: daughter, 23 Athina Petrakis: daughter, 18 In our second session, Helen said that her son again mentioned that he saw how overwhelmed she was and wanted to help care for Magda. While Helen was not sure this was the best idea, she saw how it might be helpful for a short time. Nonetheless, her instincts were still telling her that this could be a bad plan. Helen worried about changing the arrangements as they were and seemed reluctant to step away from her integral role in Magda’s care, despite the pain it was causing her. In this session, I helped Helen begin to explore her feelings and assumptions about her role as a caretaker in the family. Helen did not seem able to identify her expectations of herself as a caretaker. She did, however, resolve her ambivalence about Alec’s offer to care for Magda. By the end of the session, Helen agreed to have Alec live with his grandmother. In our third session, Helen briskly walked into the room and announced that Alec had moved in with Magda and it was a disaster. Since the move, Helen had had to be at the apartment at least once daily to intervene with emergencies. Magda called Helen at work the day after Alec moved in to ask Helen to pick up a refill of her medications at the pharmacy. Helen asked to speak to Alec, and Magda said he had gone out with two friends the night before and had not come home yet. Helen left work immediately and drove to Magda’s home. Helen angrily told me that she assumed that Magda misplaced the medications, but then she began to cry and said that the medications were not misplaced, they were really gone. When she searched the apartment, Helen noticed that the cash box was empty and that Magda’s checkbook was missing two checks. Helen determined that Magda was robbed, but because she did not want to frighten her, she decided not to report the crime. Instead, Helen phoned the pharmacy and explained that her mother-in-law, suffering from dementia, had accidently destroyed her medication and would need refills. She called Magda’s bank and learned that the checks had been cashed. Helen cooked lunch for her motherin-law and ate it with her. When a tired and disheveled Alec arrived back in the apartment, Helen quietly told her son about the robbery and reinforced the importance of remaining in the building with Magda at night. Helen said that the events in Magda’s apartment were repeated 2 days later. By this time in the session Helen was furious. With her face red with rage and her hands shaking, she told me that all this was my fault for suggesting that Alec’s presence in the apartment would benefit the family. Jewelry from Greece, which had been in the family for generations, was now gone. Alec would never be in this trouble if I had not told Helen he should be permitted to live with his grandmother. Helen said she should know better than to talk to a stranger about private matters. Helen cried, and as I sat and listened to her sobs, I was not sure whether to let her cry, give her a tissue, or interrupt her. As the session was nearing the end, Helen quickly told me that Alec has struggled with maintaining sobriety since he was a teen. He is currently on 2 years’ probation for possession and had recently completed a rehabilitation program. Helen said she now realized Alec was stealing from his grandmother to support his drug habit. She could not possibly tell her husband because he would hurt and humiliate Alec, and she would not consider telling the police. Helen’s solution was to remove the valuables and medications from the apartment and to visit twice a day to bring supplies and medicine and check on Alec and Magda. After this session, it was unclear how to proceed with Helen. I asked my field instructor for help. I explained that I had offered support for a possible solution to Helen’s difficulties and stress. In rereading the progress notes in Helen’s chart, I realized I had misinterpreted Helen’s reluctance to ask Alec to move in with his grandmother. I felt terrible about pushing Helen into acting outside of her own instincts. My field instructor reminded me that I had not forced Helen to act as she had and that no one was responsible for the actions of another person. She told me that beginning social workers do make mistakes and that my errors were part of a learning process and were not irreparable. I was reminded that advising Helen, or any client, is ill-advised. My field instructor expressed concern about my ethical and legal obligations to protect Magda. She suggested that I call the county office on aging and adult services to research my duty to report, and to speak to the agency director about my ethical and legal obligations in this case. In our fourth session, Helen apologized for missing a previous appointment with me. She said she awoke the morning of the appointment with tightness in her chest and a feeling that her heart was racing. John drove Helen to the emergency room at the hospital in which she works. By the time Helen got to the hospital, she could not 21 SESSIONS: CASE HISTORIES • THE PETRAKIS FAMILY catch her breath and thought she might pass out. The hospital ran tests but found no conclusive organic reason to explain Helen’s symptoms. I asked Helen how she felt now. She said that since her visit to the hospital, she continues to experience shortness of breath, usually in the morning when she is getting ready to begin her day. She said she has trouble staying asleep, waking two to four times each night, and she feels tired during the day. Working is hard because she is more forgetful than she has ever been. Her back is giving her trouble, too. Helen said that she feels like her body is one big tired knot. I suggested that her symptoms could indicate anxiety and she might want to consider seeing a psychiatrist for an evaluation. I told Helen it would make sense, given the pressures in her life, that she felt anxiety. I said that she and I could develop a treatment plan to help her address the anxiety. Helen’s therapy goals include removing Alec from Magda’s apartment and speaking to John about a safe and supported living arrangement for Magda.

Figure 31.1

Logic Model

Logic Models

Karen A. Randolph

logic model is a diagram of the relationship between a need that a

p rogram is designed to addret>s and the actions to be taken to address the
need and achieve program outcomes. It provides a concise, one-page pic-
ture of p rogram operations from beginning to end. The diagram is made
up of a series of boxes that represent each of the program’s com ponents,

inpu ts or resources, activities, outputs, and outcomes. The diagram shows how these
components are connected or linked to one another for the purpose of achieving
program goals. Figure 31.1 provides an example of the frame work for a basic logic model.

Th e program connections illustrate the logic of how program operations will result in
client change (McLaughlin & Jordan, 1999). The connections show the “causal” relati on-
ships between each of the program components and thus are referred to as a series of”if-
then” sequence of changes leading to th e intended outco mes for the target client group
(Chinman, hum, & Wandersman, 2004). The if-then statements represent a program’s
theory of change underlying an intervention. As such, logic models provide a framework
that g uides the evaluation process by laying out important relationships that need to b e
tested to demonstrate program results (Watso n, 2000).

Logic models come from the field of program evaluation. The idea emerged in
response to the recognition among program evaluators regardin g the need to systema tize
the p r ogram evaluation process (McLaughlin & Jordan, 20 04). Since then , logic models
have become increasingly popular among program managers for program planning and
to monitor program performance. With a growing emphasis on accountability and out-
come measurement, logic models make explicit the entire change process, Lhe assu mp-
tions t hat underlie this process, and the pathways to reach ing outcomes. Researchers have
begun to use logic models for intervention research planning (e.g., Brown, Hawkins,
Arthur, Brin ey, & Abbott, 2007).

The followin g sections provide a description of the components of a basic logic model
and how these compon ents are linked together, its relationship to a p rogram’s theory of

[ : Inputs 1–_.,•1 Ac~vities ,II—-.~•{ .Outputs ·11—~·1 Outcomes I
AUTHOR’S NOTE: The author wishes to acknowledge Dr. Tony Tripodi for his though lful comments
on a drafl of this chapter.



change, and its uses and benefits. The steps for creating a logic model as well as the chal-
lenges of the logic modeling process will be presented. The chapter concludes with an
example of how a logic model was u~cd to enhance program outcomes for a family liter-
acy program.

Components of a Logic Model

Typically, a logic model has four components: inputs or resources, activities, outputs, and
outcomes. Outcomes can be further classified into short-term outcomes, intermediate
outcomes, and long-term outcomes based on the length of time it takes to reach these
outcomes (McLa ughlin & Jordan , 2004) . The components make up the connection
between the planned work and the intended results (W. K. Kellogg Foundation, 2004).
The planned work includes the resources (the inp uts) needed to im plement the program
as well as how the resources will be used (the activities) . The intended results include the
outputs and outcomes that occur as a consequence of the planned work. Figure 31.2
expands on the model illuslrated in Figure 3 1.1 by adding examples of each component.
This particular logic model, adopted from frec htling (2007), provides an illustration of
the components of an intervention designed to prevent substance abuse and other prob-
lem behaviors among a population of youth. The intervention is targeted toward improv-
ing parenting skills, based on the assumption that positive parenting leads to prosocial
behaviors among yo uth {Bahr, Hoffman, & Yang, 2005). The following section provides
definitions and examples of each logic model component, using this illustration.

Resources, sometimes referred to as inputs, in clude the human, fin ancial, organizational,
and community asse ts that are available to a program to achieve its objectives (W. K.
Kellogg Foundation, 2004). Resources are used to support and facilitate the program
activities. They are usually categorized in terms of funding resou rces or in -kind contribu-
tion s (Frechtling, 2007) .

Some resources, such as laws, regulations, and funding requirements, are external to
the agency (United Way of America, 1996). Other resources, such as staff and money, are
easier lo quantify than others (e.g., community awareness of the program; Mertinko,
Novotney, Baker, & Lange, 2000). As Fn.:c:htli ng (2007) notes, it is important to clearly and
tho roughly id ent ify the available resources during the logic modeling process because this
information defines the scope and parameters of the program. Also, this inCormation is
critical for others who may be interes ted in replicating the program. The logic model in
Figure 31.2 includes fu nding as one of its resources.

Activities represent a program’s service methodology, showing how a program intends on
using the resources described previously to carry out its work. Activities are also referred
to as ac tion step!; (McLaughlin & Jordan, 2004). They are the highly specifi c tasks that
p rogram staffs engage in on a daily basis to provide services to clients (Mertinko
et al., 2000) . They include all aspects of pro gram implementation, the processes, tools,
events, technology, and program actions. The ac tivities form the foundation toward facil-
itating intended client changes or reaching oulcornes (W. K. Kellogg Fo undation, 2004).
Some examples are establishing community councils, providing professional develop –
ment training, or initiating a media campaign (Frechtling, 2007). Other examples are


Inputs Activities Outputs Outcomes

Short Term Intermediate Long Term

Feedback Loop j



Develop and Numbe r of Increased

youth Funds .~ initiate ~edi a st~tions a~opti ng r– awareness f- positive 1—–+ of positive substance
-~m~tg~– -.:::c -campatgn J pa renting parenti ng – abv?~d’



Develop and Number of Increased
distribute – 1> fact sheets 1- enrollment

fact sheets distributed in parenting

Fig ure 31.2 Example of l ogic Model With Com ponents, Two Types of Connections, and a Feedbaclc loop

providing shelter for homeless families, educating the public about signs of child abuse,
or providing adult mentors for youlh {United Way of Ame rica, 1996) . Two activities,
” Deve lop and initiate media campaign” and “Develop and distribute fact sheets;’ are
included in the logic model in Figure 31.2. Activities lead to or produce the program o ut-
puts, described in the following section.

The planned works (resources and activities) bring about a program’s des ired res ul ts,
including outputs and outcom es (W. K. Kell ogg Foundatio n, 2004) . Outputs, also referred
to as units of service, are the immediate results of program activities in the form of types,
levels, and targets of services to be delivered by the program (McLaughl in & Jordan ,
1999). They are tangible products, events, o r serv ices. They provide the documentation
that activities have been implemented and, as such, indicate if a program was delivered to
the intended audience at the intended dose (W. K. Kellogg FounJation, 2004). Outputs
arc typical ly desc ribed in terms of th e size and/or scope of the services an d products pro-
duced by the program and thus are expressed numerically (Frechtling, 2007). Examples of
program ou tpu ts include the number of classes ta ught, meetings held, o r materials p ro-
duced and distributed; program par ticipation rates and demography; or hours of each
type of serv ice provided (W. K. Kellogg Foundation, 2004) . Other examples are the
number of meals provided, classes taught, brochures distributed , or participants ser ved
(Frecht1ing, 2007) . W hile outputs have little inherent value in themselves, they provide
the link between a program’s activ ities and a program’s outcomes (United Way of
America, 1996). The logic model in Figure 31.2 includes Lhc number of stations adopting
the media campaign and the number of fact sheets distributed as two outputs for the pre-
vention program.


Outcomes arc Lhe specific changes experienced by the program’s clients or target group as
a consequence of participating in the program. Outcomes occur as a result of the program
activities and outputs. These changes may be in behaviors, attitudes, skill level, status, or
level of functioning (W. K. Kellogg Foundation, 2004). Examples include increased knowl-
edge of nut r itional needs, improved reading skills, more effective responses to conflict,
and finding employment (United Way of America, 1996) . Outcomes are indicalors of a
program’s level of success.

McLa ughlin and Jordan (2004) make the point that some programs have multiple,
sequential outcome structures in the form of short-term outcomes, intermediate out-
comes, and long-term outcomes. In these cases, each type of outcome is linked tempo-
rally. Short-term outcomes arc client changes or benefits th at are mos t immediately
associated with the program’s outputs. They are usually realized by clients wi thin 1 to
3 years of program completion. Short-term outcomes are linked to accomplishing inter-
mediate outcomes. Intermediate ou tcomes are generally attain able in 4 to 6 years. Long-
term outcomes are also referred to as program impacts or program goals. They occur as a
result of the intermediate outcomes, usually within 7 to 10 years. In this format, long-
term outcomes or goals are directed at macro-level change and target organizations, co m-
munities, or systems (W. K. Kellogg Foundation, 2004).

As an example, a sequen tial outcome structure with short- term, intermediate, and
long-term outcomes for the prevention program is displayed in Figure 31.2. As a result of
hearing the public service announ cemen ts about positive parenting (th e activity), parents
enroll in parenting programs to learn new parenting skills (the short-term outcome).
Then they apply these newly learned skills with their children (the intermediate out-
come), which leads to a reducti on in substance abuse among youth (the long-term impact
or goal the parenting program was designed to achieve).

Outcomes ar e often confused with outputs in logic models because their correct clas-
sification depends on the context within which they are being included. A good exa mple
of this potential confusion, provided in the United Way of America manual ( 1996, p. 19),
is as follows. The number of clients served is an output when it is meant to describe the
volume of work accomplished. In this case, it does not relate directly to cl ient changes or
benefits. H owever, the number of clients served is considered to be an outcome when the
program’s intention is to encourage clients to seek services, such as alcohol treatment.
What is important to remember is that outcomes describe intended client changes or
benefits as a result of participatin g in the program while outputs document products or
services produced as a result of activities.

Links or Connections Between Components

A critical part of a logic model is the connections or links between the components. The
connections illustrate the relationships between the components and the process by
which change is hypothesized to occur among program participants. This is referred to as
the program theory (Frechtling, 2007). It is the con nections illustrating the program’s
theory of change that make the logic model complicated. Specifying the connections is
one of the more difficult aspects of developing a logic model because the process requires
predicting the process by which client change is expected to occur as a result of program
participation (Frech tling, 2007).


Frechtling (2007) describes nvo types of connections in a logic model: connections
that link items within each compo nent and connections that illustrate the program’s
theory of change. The first type, items within a component, is connected by a straight line.
This line shows that the items make up a particularcomponent.As an example, in Figure 31.2,
nvo activities, “Develop and initiate media campaign” and ” Develop and distribute fact
sheets,” are linked together with a straight line beca use they represent the items within the
activities component. Similarly, two outputs, “Number of stations adop ting the cam-
paign” and “Number of fact sheets distributed;’ arc connected as two items within the
outputs component.

The second type of connection sh<.>ws how the components interact with or relate to
each other to reach expected outcomes (Frechtling, 2007) . In essence, this is the program’s
theory of change. Thus, instead of straight lines, arrows are used to show the direction of
influence. Frechtling (2007) clarifies that “these directional connections are not just a
kind of glue ancho ring the otherwise floating boxes. Rather they portray the changes thaL
arc expected to occur after a previous ac Livity has taken place, and as a result of it” (p. 33).
She points out that the primary purpose of the evaluation is to determine the nature of
the relationships between components (i.e., whether the predictions are correct). A logic
mod el that illustrates a fully developed theory of change includes links between every
item in each co mponent. In other words, every item in every component must be co n-
nected to at least one item in a subsequent component. This is illustrated in Figure 3 1.2,
which shows that each of the two items within th e activities co mpon en t is linked to an
item within the output co mponent.

Figure 31.2 provides an example of the predicted relationships between the compo-
nents. This is the program theory about how the target group is expected to change. The
input or resource, funding, is co nnected to the tv,ro activities, “Develop and initiate media
campaign” and “Develop and distribute fac t sheets.” Simply put, this part of Figure 31 .2
shows that funding will be used to support the development and initiati on of PSA cam-
paigns and the distribution of fact sheets.

The sequencing of the connections between components also shows th at these steps
occur over a period of time. While this may seem obvious and relatively inconsequential,
specifying an accurate sequence has time-based implications, pa rticularly when short-
term, intermediate, and long-term outco mes are proposed as a part of the theory of
change (Frechtling, 2007). Rcca11 that the short-term outcomes lead to achieving the
intermediate outcomes, and the intermediate outcomes lead to ach ieving long-term out-
comes. Thus, the belief or underl}ing ass umption is that short-term outco mes mediate
(or come between) relationships benv-een activities and intermediate o utcomes, and
intermediate outcomes mediate relations between sho rt-te rm and long-term outcomes.

Related, sometimes logic models display feedback loops. Feedback loops show how the
information gained from implementing one item can be used to refine and improve other
items (Frechlling, 2007). f or instance, in Figure 31.2, the feedback loop from the short-
term outcome, ” Increased awareness of positive parenting;’ back to the activity, “Develop
and initiate media campaign;’ indicates that the findings for ” Increased awareness of pos-
itive parenting” arc used to im prove the PSA campaigns in the next program cycle.

Contextual Factors

Logic models describe programs that exist and are affected by contextual factors in the
larger environment. Contextual factors are those important features of the environment


in which the project or inter vention takes place. They include the social, cultural, and
political aspects of the environment (Frechtling, 2007). They are typically not under the
program’s control yet are likely to influe nce the program either positively or negatively
(McLa ughlin & Jordan, 2004 ). T hu s, it is critical to identify relevant contextual factors
and to consider their potential impact on the program. McLaughlin and Jordan (1999)
point out that understanding and articulating contex tual factors co ntr ibu tes to an under-
standing of the fo undat io n u pon whi ch performance expectatio ns a re established.
Mo reover, this knowledge h elps to establish the parameters for explaining program
results and developing program improvement strategies that are li kely to be more m ean-
ingful and thus more successful because the information is more complete. finally, con-
textual factors clarify situations under which the program results might be expected to
generalize and the issues that might affect replication (Frechtling, 2007) .

Harrell, Burt, Hatry, Rossm an, a nd Roth ( 1996) identify two types of contextual fac-
tors, antecedent and media6ng, as o utside facto rs that could influence th e program’s
design, implementa tio n, and results. Anteceden t factors are thos e that exist prior to
program implemen tatio n, such as cha racteristics of the client target population o r com-
munity characteristics such as geographical and economic conditions. Mediating factors
are the environmental influences that emerge as the program unfolds, such as new laws
and policies, a change in economic con ditions, or the startup of other new programs pro-
viding similar services (McLaughlin & jordan, 2004).

Logic Models and a Program’s Theory of Change

Log ic models p rovide an illustration of the compo nents of a program’s theo t-y and how
those components are linked togeth er. Program theory is defined as “a plausible and sen-
sible model of how a program is supposed to wo rk” (Bickman, 1987, p. 5). Program
theory in corporates “program resources, program activities, and intended program out-
comes, and specifies a chain of causal assumptions linking resources, activities, interme-
di ate outcomes, and ulti mate goals” (Wholey, 1987, p. 78). Program theory e.>..-plicates the
assumptions abou t how the program components link together from program star t to
goal attainmen t to realize the program’s intended outcomes (Frechtling, 2007). Thus, it is
often referred to as a p rogram’s theory of change. Frechtling (2007) suggests that both
previous research and knowledge gained from practice experience arc useful in develop-
ing a theory of change.

Relationship to logic Models
A logic model provides an illustration of a program’s theory of change. It is a useful tool
for describing program theory because it shows the connections or if-then relationships
between program components. In other words, moving from left to right from one com-
po nent to the next, logic models provide a diagram of the rationale or reasoning underly-
ing the theory of change. If-th en statements connect the program’s co m po nents to form
the theory of change (W. K. Kellogg Founda tion, 2004). For example, certain resources or
inputs are needed to carr y out a program’s activities. The first if-then statement links
reso urces to acti vities and is stated, ” If you have access to these resources, then yo u can use
them to accomplish yo ur planned activities” (W. K. Kellogg Fo undation, 2004, p. 3). Each


component in a logic model is linked to the other components using if-then statemen ts to
show a program’s chain of reasoning about how client change is predicted to occur. The
idea is that “if the right resources are transformed into the right activities for the right
people, then these will lead to the results the program was designed to achieve”
(McLaughlin & Jordan, 2004, p. 11). It is important to define the components of an inter-
vention and make the connections between them explicit (Frechtling, 2007).

Program Theory and Evaluation Planning
Chen and Rossi (1983) were among th e first to suggest a program theory-driven
approach to evaluation. A program’s theory of change has significant utility in develop-
ing and implementing a program evaluation because the theory provides a framework
for determining the evalu ation questions (Rossi, Lipsey, & Freeman, 2004) . As such, a
logic model that ill ustrates a program’s theory of change provides a map to inform the
developmen t of relevant eval uation questions at each phase of t he evaluation. Rossi
et al. (2004) explain how a program theory-based logic mode l enha nces the devel op-
ment of evaluation questions. First, the process of articulating the logic of the
program’s change process through the development of the logic model prompts discus-
sion of relevant and meaningful evaluation questions. Second, these questions then lead
to articulating expect ations fo r p rogram performance and inform the identification o f
criteria to measure that performance. Third, obtaining input from key stakeholders
about the theory of change as it is displayed in the logic model increases the likelihood
of a more comprehensive set of questions and that critical issues have not been over-
looked. To clarify, most agree that this is a team effort that should include the program
development and program evaluation staff at a minimum, as well as other stakeholders
both internal and external to the program as they are available (Dwyer & Makin, 1997;
Frech tling, 2007; Mclaughlin & Jordan, 2004). The diversity of perspective and skill sets
among the team members (e.g., program developers vs. program evaluators) enhances
the depth of understanding of how the program will work, as diagramed by the logic
model (Frechtling, 2007). As D”vyer and Makin (1997) state, the team approach to
develop ing a theory-based logic model promotes “greater stakeholde r invo lvement, the
opportunity for open negotiation of program objectives, greater commitment to the
final co nceptualization of the program, a shared vis ion, and increased likeliho od to
accept and utilize th e evaluation results” (p. 423) .

Uses of Logic Models

Logic models have many uses. They help Lo integrate the entire program’s planning and
implementation process from beginning to end, including the evaluation process (D wyer
& Makin, 1997). They can be used at all of a program’s stages to enhance its success
(Frechlling, 2007; W. K. Kellogg Foundation, 2004). For instance, at the program design
and planning stage, going through the process of developing logic models helps to clarify
the purpose of the program, the development of program strategies, resources that are
necessary to attaining outcomes, and th e identification of possible barriers to
the program’s success. Also, identifying program components such as activities and
outcomes prior to program implementation provides an opportunity to ensure that
program outcomes inform program activities, rather than the other way aroun d (Dwyer
& Makin, 1997) .


During the p rogmm implementation phase, a logic model p rovides the basis fo r th e
development of a management plan to guide program monitoring ac tiv ities and to
improve program processes as issues arise. In other words, it helps in identifying and
highlighting the key program processes to be tracked to ensure a program’s effectiveness
(United Way of America, 1996).

Most important, a logic model facilitates evaluatio n planning by providing the evalua-
tion framework fo r shapin g the evalua tion across all stages of a project. Intended out-
comes and the process for measuring these outcomes are displayed in a logic model
(Watson, 2000), as well as key points at which evaluation activities should take place
across the life of the program (McLaughlin & Jordan) 2004). Logic models suppo rt both
formative and summative evaluations (Frechtli ng, 2007). They can be used in conducting
summativc evaluations to determine what has been accomplished and, importantly, the
process by which these accomplishments have been achieved (Frechtling, 2007) . Logic
models can also support formative evaluations by organizing evaluatio n activities, incl ud-
ing the meas urement of key variables or performance indicators (McLaughlin & Jordan,
2004) . From this info rmation, evaluation questions, relevant indicators, and data collec-
tion strategies can be developed. The following section expands on using the logic model
to develop evaluation questions.

The logic m odel provides a framework for developing eval uat ion q uestions about
prog r am co n text, program efforts, and p rogram effec tiveness ( Frech t ling, 2007;
Mer ti nko et al., 2000). Together, these three sets of quest ions help to explicate the
progr am’s theory of change by describing the assumptions about the r elationship s
between a program’s operations and its predicted outcomes (Ross i et al. , 2004) .
Context questio ns explore program capacity and relationships external to the program
and help to identify and understand the impac t of confo unding factors or externa l
infl uences. Pr ogram effort and effectiveness quest ions correspond to particular co m –
ponents in the logic model and thus exp lore program processes t oward ach ieving
program outcomes. Questions a bout effor t address the planned work of the program
and come from the input and activities sections of the eva luatio n mo d el. They address
program implementation issues such as the services that were provided and to who m.
These questio ns focus on what happene d and why. Effectiveness or outco m e questions
address program results as described in the output and outcomes section of the logic
m odel. From the questions, indicators and da ta collection strategies can the n be d evel-
oped. Guidelines for using logic mo d els to develop evaluation questi ons, ind icators,
and data collection strategies are provided in the Logic Model Development Guide
( W. K. Kellogg Foundation, 200 4 ).

In addition to supporting program effo rts, a logic model is a useful comm unication
tool (McLaughlin & Jordan, 2004 ). For instance, developing a logic model provides the
opportunity fo r key stakeholders to discuss and reach a common understanding, includ-
ing underlying assumptions, about how the program opera tes an d the resources needed
to achieve program p rocesses and outcomes. ln fact, some suggest t hat the logic model
development process is actually a form of strategic planning because it requ ires partici-
pants to articulate a program’s vision, the rationale for the program, and the program
processes and procedures (‘Watson, 2000) . T his also promotes stakeholder involvem ent in
program planning and consensus building on the program’s design and operations.
Moreover, a logic model can be used to explain program procedures and sha re a compre-
hensive yet concise picture of th e p rogram to comm unity partners, funders, and others
outside of the agency (McLaughlin & Jordan, 2004) .


Steps for Creating Logic Models

McLaughlin and Jordan (2004) descri be a five-stage process for developing logic models.
The first stage is to gather extensive baseline information from multiple sources abo ut the
nature of the problem or need and about alternative solutions. The W. K. Kellogg
Foundation (2004) also suggests collecting information about community needs and
assets. This information can then be used to both define the problem (the second stage of
developing a logic model ) and identify the program clements in the form of logic model
componen ts (the third stage of logic model development). Possible information sources
include existing program documentation, interviews with key stakeholders internal and
exte rn al to the program, strategic plans, annual performance plans, previous program
evaluations, an d relevant legislation and regulations. It is also important to review the lit-
erature about factors related to the problem and to determ ine the strategies others have
used in attemp ting to address it. This type of information provides supportive evidence
that informs the approach to addressing the problem.

The information collected in the first stage is th en used to define the problem, the
con textual factors that relate to the problem, and Lhus the need for the program. The
program sho uld be conceptualized based on what is uncovered abo ut the nature and
extent of the problem, as well as the factors that are correlated with or cause the prob-
lem. It is also impor tan t at this stage to develop a clear idea of the impact of the prob-
lem across micro, mezzo, and macro domains. The focus of the program is then to
address the “causal” factors to solve t he problem. In addition, McLaughlin and Jordan
(2004, p. 17) recommend identifyi n g the environmental factors that are likely to affect
the program, as well as ho·w these conditions might affect progr am outcomes.
Understanding the relationship between the program and relevan t environmental fac-
tors contributes to framing its parameters.

During the third stage, the elemen ts or components of the logic model are identified,
based on the findings that emerged in the second stage. McLaughlin and Jorda n (2004)
recommend starting out by categorizing each piece of information as a resource or input,
activity, o utput, short-term outcome, intermediate outcome, long-term outcome, or con-
textual factor. While some suggest that the order in which the components arc identified
is in consequen tial to developing an effective logic mod el, most recommend beginning
this process by identifying long-term outcomes and working backward (United Way of
America, 1996; W. K. Kellogg Foundation, 2004) .

The lo gic model is drawn in the fourth stage. Figure 31 .2 provi.des an example of a typ –
ical logic model. This diagram includes columns of boxes representing the items for each
component (i.e., inputs, activities, outputs, and shor t-term, intermediate, and long- ter m
outcomes). Text is provided in each box to describe the item. The connections between
the items within a component are shown with straight lines. The links or connections
between components are shown with one-way directional arrows. Prog ram components
may or may not have one-on-one rela tionships with o ne another. In fact, it is likely that
components in one group (e.g., inputs) will have multiple connections to components in
another group (e.g., activities). For example, in Figure 31.2, we show that the funding
resource leads to two activities, “Develop and initiate media campaign” and “Develop and
distribute fact sheets.” Finally, because activities can be described at many levels of detail,
McLaughlin and Jordan (2004) suggest simplifying the model by group ing activities that
lead to the same outcome. They also recommend including no more than five to seven
activity groupings in one logic model.


Stage 5 focuses on verifying the logic model by getting input from all key stakeholders.
McLaughlin and Jordan (2004) recommend applying the if-then statements presented by
United Way of America ( 1996) in developing hypotheses to check the logic model in the
following manner:

given observations of key contextual factors, if resources, then program activities; if
program activities, then out puts for targeted customer groups; if outputs change
behavior, first short term, then intermediate outcomes occur. If intermediate out-
comes occur, then longer-term outcomes lead to the problem being solved. (p. 24)

They also recommend answering the following questions as a part of the verification
process (pp. 24-25):

1. Is the level of detail sufficient to create understanding of the elements and their
interrela ti onsh ips?

2. Is the program logic complete? That is, arc all the key elements accounted for?

3. Is the program logic theoretically sound? Do all the elements fit together logically?
Are there other plausible pathways to achieving the program outcomes?

4. Have all the relevant external contextual factors been identified and their potential
influences described?

Challenges in Developing Logic Models

Frechtling (2007 ) describes three sets of challenges in developing and using logic models,
including (a) accurately portraying the basic features of the logic model, (b) determining
the appropriate level of detail in the model, and (c) having realistic expectations about
what logic models ca n and canno t contribute to program processes. These challenges are
reviewed in more detail in the following section.

Portraying the Logic Model’s Basic Features Accurately
The basic features of a logic model must be clearly understood in order for the logic
model to be useful. In particular, logic model developers often enco unter difficulty in four
areas: confusing terms, substituting specific measures for more gene ral outcomes, assum-
ing unidirectionality, and failing to specify a timefrarne for program processes (Frechtling,
2007; McLaughlin & Jordan, 2004).

One issue in developing the logic model is accurately differentiating between an activity
or outp ut and an outcome. Frequently, activities and outputs are confused witl1 outcomes
(Frechtling, 2007). They can be distinguished by remembering that activities are steps or
actions taken in pursuit of producing the output and thus achieving the outcome. Outputs
are products that come as a result of completing activities. They are typically expressed
numerically (e.g., the number of training sessions held). Outputs provide the documenta-
tion that activities have occurred. They also link activities to ou tcomes. Outcomes are
statements about participant cha nge as a result of experiencing the intervention.
Outcomes describe how participants will be different after they finish the program.

Another issue in portraying the basic features of logic models accurately is not confus-
ing outcomes with the instruments used to measure whether the outcomes were achieved.

C HAP t ER 31 • l OGIC M ODHS 557

For example, the outcome may be decreased depression, as measured by an instrument
assessing a participant’s level of depression (Center for Epidemiological Studies-
Depression Scale; Radloff, 1977). Some may confuse the outcome (i.e., decreased depres-
sion) with the instrument (i.e., Center for Ep idem iological Studies- Depression Scale) that
was used to determine whether the outcome was met. To minimize the potential for this
confusion, Frechtling (2007) recommends developing the outcome lirsl and then identify-
ing the appropriate instrument for determ ini ng that the outcome has been reached.

A thiru issue in logic model development is avoiding the assumption that the logic
model and, by implication, the theo ry of change that the logic model portrays move in a
unidirectional progression from left to right {Frechtling, 2007; McLaughlin & Jordan,
2004) . While the visual display may compel users to think about logjc mod els in this way,
logic models and the programs they represent are much more dynamic, with feedback
loops and interactions among components. The feedback loop is illustrated in Figure 31.2,
showing that the experi ences and information generated from reachin g short-term out-
comes are used to refine and, it is hoped, improve the activities in the next program cycle
that are expected to lead to these outcomes. Also, assuming uniform directionality can
enforce the belief that the inp uts dTi ve the project, rather than attaining the outcomes.
This underscores the importance of starting with the development of outcomes when
putting together a logic modeL

The final issue is including a timeframe for carrying out the processes depicted in the
logic model. The lack of a tirneframe results in an incomplete theory of chan ge as well as
problematic expectations about when outcomes will be reached (Frechtling, 2007).
Whether outcomes are expected too soon or not soon enough, key stakeholders may
assume that the theory of change was not accurate. Developing accurate predictions of
when outcomes will be reached is often d ifficu lt, especially with n ew projects in which
very li ttle is known abou t program processes and so forth. In this case, as more clarity
emerges abo ut the amount of time it will take to complete activities, tirneframes should
be revisited and modified to reflect the new information.

Determining the Appropriate Level of Detail
A second set of challenges is to determine how much detail to include in the logic model.
T he underlying dilemma is the level of complexity. Models that are too complex, with too
much detail, are lime-consuming to develop and difficult to interpret. Thus, they are
likely to be cumbersome to use. Models that lack enough information may depict an
incomplete theory of change by leaving out impor tant information. For instance, if activ-
ities are combined into par ticular groups, it is possible that important links between spe-
cific activiti es, outp uts, and outcomes wiJJ not be represented. This increases Lhe
possibility of making faulty assumptions about program opera lions and how these oper-
ations lead to positive participant outcomes.

Realistic Expectations
The fmal set of challenges in using logic models is no t expecting more from logic models
than what th ey are intended to provide. Frechtling (2007, p. 92) notes that some may
inaccurately view the logic model as a “cure-ali” a nd that, just by its mere existence, the
logic model wi ll ensure the success of the program and the evaluation. Of course, the effi-
cacy of a logic model depends on the quality of its design and components. A log ic model
cannot overcome these types of problems. Frcchtling identifies four commo n issues
here. First, sometimes new programs are such that applying the theory of change and a

558 P11RT V • CoN ctPI’UAl R ESEARCH

representative logic model is premature. This is the case for programs in which a priori
expectations about relationships between activities and outcomes do not exist.

A second risk in this area is fai ling to consider alternative theories of change.
Alternative explanations and competing hypotheses sho ul d be explored. Focusing on only
one theory of change may result in not recognizing and including important factors that
fall o utside of the theorys domain. Ignoring these competing fac to rs may result in the
fail ure of the logic model and the program.

Third and related, it is critical to acknowledge the influence of contextual factors that
arc likely to affect the program. Interventions always exist and function wiLhi n a larger
environment. Contextual factors influence the success or failure of these interventions.
For instance, one contextual factor that might affect outcomes of the program diagrammed
in Figure 31 .2 is the diversity of the target group. As Frechtling (2007) observes, this d iver-
sity may include language differences among subgroups, which need to be accounted for
in developing program m aterials.

fin ally, logic models cannot fully co mp ensate for the rigor of expe rimental design
when testing the impact of interventions o n outco m es (Frech tling, 2007) . T he logic
model explicates the critical components of a program and the processes that lead to
desired outcomes (the program theory of cha nge). The implementation of the model
provides a test of th e accuracy of the theory. However, validatio n of the logic model is not
as rigorous a proof as what is established through study designs employing experimental
or quasi-experimental methodologies. Causality cannot be determined through logic
models. Alhen possible, an evaluation can be strengthened by combining the advantages
of logic modeling with experimental design.

Logic Modeling in Practice: Building
Blocks Family Literacy Program

The following provides an example of logic modeling in practice. The example describes the
use of a program logic model in developing, implementing, and evaluating the Building
Blocks family literacy program and how client exit data were then used to revise the model in
a way that more explicitly illustrated the program’s path•.vays to achieving intended outcomes
(i.e., feedback loop; Unrau, 2001, p. 355). The original program outcomes were to increase
(a ) children’s literacy skills and (b) parents’ abilities to assist their children in developing lit-
eracy skills. The sam ple included 89 families who participated in the 4-week program du ring
its initial year of operation. The following describes the process by which the logic model was
developed and how the client outcome data were used to fme- tune the logic model.

The family literacy program’s logic model was created at a one-day workshop facili-
tated by the evalua tor. Twenty key stakeholders representing various constituenc ies,
including program staff (i.e., steering committee members, administration, and literacy
workers), representatives from other programs (i.e., public school teachers, child welfare,
and workers and clients from other literacy programs), and oth er interested citizens, par-
ticipated in the workshop (Unrau, 2001, p. 354). A consensus decision- making process
was used to reach an agreement on all aspects of the process, including the program pur-
pose, the prog ram objectives, and the pro gram activities.

During the workshop, stakeholders created five products that defined the program
parameters and info rmed the focus of the evaluation. These products included an organi-
zational chart, the beliefs and assumptions of stakeholders about client service delivery,
the questions for the eval uation, the program’s goals and objectives, and the program

CHAPTER 31 • l OGIC MoDElS 559

activities. The program goals, objectives, and activities were then used to develop the orig-
inallogic model.

One of the evaluation methods used to assess client ou tcomes was to conduct semi-
st ructured phone interviews with the parents after families completed the program.
Random select ion procedu res were used to identify a su bset (n = 35 or 40o/o) from the
list of all parents to participate in the interviews. Random selection procedures were used
to ensure that the ex-periences of the interviewees represented those of all clients served
during the evaluation time period. Relative to the two program outcomes, respondents
were asked to provide examples of any observed changes in both their children’s literacy
skills (Outcome 1) and their ability to assist their children in developing literacy skills
(Outcome 2; Unrau, 2001, p. 357). The co nstant comparison method was used to analyze
the data (Pa tton, 2002 ). In this method, meani ngful units of texi: are assigned to similar
categories to identify common themes.

What emerged from the parent interviews was more detailed information about how
the two inten ded outcomes were achieved. Parent experiences in the program suggested
four additional processes that li nk to reaching the two final outcomes. Thi s infor mation
was added to the original logic model to more fully develop the pathways to improving
children’s literacy skills through the family literacy program. These additional outcomes
were actually steps toward meeting the two originally intended outcomes and thus iden-
tified as intermediate outcomes and ne-cessary steps toward ach ieving the or iginally stated
long-term outcomes. Figure 31.3 provides a diagram of the revised logic model. The
shaded boxes represent the components of the original logic model. The other compo-
nents were added as a result of the parent exit interview data.

Input j I Activities I Short-Term Outcomes I [ Intermediate Outcomes J I Long-Term :Outcomes j

Improve child’s

Increase parent’s
own literacy skills

Figure 31.3 Example of a Revised Program Logic Model for a Family Literacy Program

SOURCE: Unrau (200 1}. Copyright November 21 , 2007 by Elsevier limited. Reprinted with permission.

NOTE: The shaded boxes represent the logic model’s original components. The other boxes were added as a result of feedback from clients
after program compl etion.


While the parent in terview data were useful in revising the program logic about client
change, it is important to interpret this process withi n the app ropriate context. This part
of the evaluation does not provide evidence that the program caused client change (Rossi
et al., 2004). This can only be determined through the use of experimental methods with
random ass ignmen t. Nonetheless, these paren t data contr ibute to developing a mo re fully
developed model fo r unde rstanding how fam ily literacy programs wo rk to improve out-
comes for children. Experimental methods can then be used to test the revised model for
the purpose of es tablishing the causal pathways to the intended outcomes.


The purpose of this chapter was to introduce the rea der to logic models and to the logic
modeling process. Logic models present an illustration of th e components of a program
(inputs, activities, outputs, and outcomes) and how these components connect with one
another to facilitate participant change (pro gram theory). They are tools to assist key
stakeholders in program plann ing, program implementation and monitoring, and espe-
cially program eva lu ation. They can also be used as communication tools in expla ining
program processes to key stakeholders external to the program. Creating a logic model is
a time-consuming process with a number of potential challenges. Nonetheless, a well-
developed and thoughtful logic mo del is likely to ensure a program’s success in reaching
its intended outcomes.


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http:/ /
Web site from theW. K. Kellogg Foundation conta ining useful templates and exercises in developing
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http:/ /
Web site from the United Way’s Outcome Mea su rement Resource Network, demonstra ting th e use of
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http:/ /
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logic model resources.

1. Define the term logic model.

2. Describe th e difference between program activities, program outputs, and program outcomes.

3. Discuss the purpose of including lines with arrows in logic models.

4. Discuss the relationship between a program’s theory of change and its logic model.

5. Describe the uses of logic models.

Excerpts from Measuring Program Outcomes: A Practical Approach
© 1996 United Way of America

Introduction to Outcome Measurement

If yours is like most human service agencies or youth- and family-serving organizations, you regularly
monitor and report on how much money you receive, how many staff and volunteers you have, and what
they do in your programs. You know how many individuals participate in your programs, how many hours
you spend serving them, and how many brochures or classes or counseling sessions you produce. In
other words, you document program inputs, activities, and outputs.

Inputs include resources dedicated to or consumed by the program. Examples are money, staff and staff
time, volunteers and volunteer time, facilities, equipment, and supplies. For instance, inputs for a parent
education class include the hours of staff time spent designing and delivering the program. Inputs also
include constraints on the program, such as laws, regulations, and requirements for receipt of funding.

Activities are what the program does with the inputs to fulfill its mission. Activities include the strategies,
techniques, and types of treatment that comprise the program’s service methodology. For instance,
sheltering and feeding homeless families are program activities, as are training and counseling homeless
adults to help them prepare for and find jobs.

Outputs are the direct products of program activities and usually are measured in terms of the volume of
work accomplished–for example, the numbers of classes taught, counseling sessions conducted,
educational materials distributed, and participants served. Outputs have little inherent value in
themselves. They are important because they are intended to lead to a desired benefit for participants or
target populations.

If given enough resources, managers can control output levels. In a parent education class, for example,
the number of classes held and the number of parents served are outputs. With enough staff and
supplies, the program could double its output of classes and participants.

If yours is like most human service organizations, you do not consistently track what happens to
participants after they receive your services. You cannot report, for example, that 55 percent of your
participants used more appropriate approaches to conflict management after your youth development
program conducted sessions on that skill, or that your public awareness program was followed by a 20
percent increase in the number of low-income parents getting their children immunized. In other words,
you do not have much information on your program’s outcomes.

Outcomes are benefits or changes for individuals or populations during or after participating in program
activities. They are influenced by a program’s outputs. Outcomes may relate to behavior, skills,
knowledge, attitudes, values, condition, or other attributes. They are what participants know, think, or can
do; or how they behave; or what their condition is, that is different following the program.

For example, in a program to counsel families on financial management, outputs–what the service
produces–include the number of financial planning sessions and the number of families seen. The
desired outcomes–the changes sought in participants’ behavior or status–can include their developing
and living within a budget, making monthly additions to a savings account, and having increased financial

In another example, outputs of a neighborhood clean-up campaign can be the number of organizing
meetings held and the number of weekends dedicated to the clean-up effort. Outcomes–benefits to the
target population–might include reduced exposure to safety hazards and increased feelings of
neighborhood pride. The program outcome model depicts the relationship between inputs, activities,
outputs, and outcomes.

Note: Outcomes sometimes are confused with outcome indicators, specific items of data that are tracked to measure how well a
program is achieving an outcome, and with outcome targets, which are objectives for a program’s level of achievement.

For example, in a youth development program that creates internship opportunities for high school youth, an outcome might be that
participants develop expanded views of their career options. An indicator of how well the program is succeeding on this outcome
could be the number and percent of participants who list more careers of interest to them at the end of the program than they did at
the beginning of the program. A target might be that 40 percent of participants list at least two more careers after completing the
program than they did when they started it.

Program Outcome Model

Resources dedicated
to or consumed by
the program
staff and staff time
volunteers and
volunteer time

equipment and

Constraints on the
funders’ requirements

What the program
does with the inputs
to fulfill its mission
feed and shelter
homeless families
provide job training
educate the public
about signs of child
counsel pregnant
create mentoring
relationships for youth

The direct products of
program activities
number of classes
number of counseling
sessions conducted
number of educational
materials distributed
number of hours of
service delivered
number of participants

Benefits for
participants during
and after program
new knowledge
increased skills
changed attitudes or

modified behavior

improved condition
altered status

Why Measure Outcomes?

In growing numbers, service providers, governments, other funders, and the public are calling for clearer
evidence that the resources they expend actually produce benefits for people. Consumers of services and
volunteers who provide services want to know that programs to which they devote their time really make a
difference. That is, they want better accountability for the use of resources. One clear and compelling
answer to the question of “why measure outcomes?” is to see if programs really make a difference in the
lives of people.

Although improved accountability has been a major force behind the move to outcome measurement,
there is an even more important reason: to help programs improve services. Outcome measurement
provides a learning loop that feeds information back into programs on how well they are doing. It offers
findings they can use to adapt, improve, and become more effective.

This dividend doesn’t take years to occur. It often starts appearing early in the process of setting up an
outcome measurement system. Just the process of focusing on outcomes–on why the program is doing
what it’s doing and how participants will be better off–gives program managers and staff a clearer picture
of the purpose of their efforts. That clarification alone frequently leads to more focused and productive
service delivery.

Down the road, being able to demonstrate that their efforts are making a difference for people pays
important dividends for programs. It can, for example, help programs:

• Recruit and retain talented staff
• Enlist and motivate able volunteers
• Attract new participants
• Engage collaborators
• Garner support for innovative efforts
• Win designation as a model or demonstration site
• Retain or increase funding
• Gain favorable public recognition

Results of outcome measurement show not only where services are being effective for participants, but
also where outcomes are not as expected. Program managers can use outcome data to:

• Strengthen existing services
• Target effective services for expansion
• Identify staff and volunteer training needs
• Develop and justify budgets
• Prepare long-range plans
• Focus board members’ attention on programmatic issues

To increase its internal efficiency, a program needs to track its inputs and outputs. To assess compliance
with service delivery standards, a program needs to monitor activities and outputs. But to improve its
effectiveness in helping participants, to assure potential participants and funders that its programs
produce results, and to show the general public that it produces benefits that merit support, an agency
needs to measure its outcomes.

These and other benefits of outcome measurement are not just theoretical. Scores of human service
providers across the country attest to the difference it has made for their staff, their volunteers, their
decision makers, their financial situation, their reputation, and, most important, for the public they serve.

Eight Steps to Success

Measuring Program Outcomes provides a step-by-step approach to developing a system for measuring
program outcomes and using the results. The approach, based on methods implemented successfully by
agencies across the country, is presented in eight steps, shown below. Although the illustration suggests
that the steps are sequential, this is actually a dynamic process with a good deal of interplay among

Example Outcomes and Outcome Indicators for Various Programs
These are illustrative examples only. Programs need to identify their own outcomes and indicators,
matched to and based on their own experiences and missions and the input of their staff, volunteers,
participants, and others.

Type of Program Outcome Indicator(s)

Smoking cessation

Participants stop smoking. • Number and percent of participants who report that they have quit smoking by
the end of the course

• Number and percent of participants who have not relapsed six months after
program completion

Information and
referral program

Callers access services to which
they are referred or about which
they are given information.

• Number and percent of community agencies that report an increase in new
participants who came to their agency as a result of a call to the information
and referral hotline

• Number and percent of community agencies that indicate these referrals are

Tutorial program
for 6th grade

Students’ academic performance

• Number and percent of participants who earn better grades in the grading
period following completion of the program than in the grading period
immediately preceding enrollment in the program


Participants become proficient in

• Number and percent of participants who demonstrate increase in ability to
read, write, and speak English by the end of the course

Counseling for
parents identified
as at risk for child
abuse or neglect

Risk factors decrease. No
confirmed incidents of child
abuse or neglect.

• Number and percent of participating families for whom Child Protective
Service records report no confirmed child abuse or neglect during 12 months
following program completion


Employees with drug and/or
alcohol problems are
rehabilitated and do not lose
their jobs.

• Number and percent of program participants who are gainfully employed at
same company 6 months after intake


The home environment is
healthy, clean, and safe.
Participants stay in their own
home and are not referred to a
nursing home.

• Number and percent of participants whose home environment is rated clean
and safe by a trained observer

• Number of local nursing homes who report that applications from younger
and healthier citizens are declining (indicating that persons who in the past
would have been referred to a nursing home now stay at home longer)

Prenatal care

Pregnant women follow the
advice of the nutritionist.

• Number and percent of women who take recommended vitamin supplements
and consume recommended amounts of calcium

Shelter and
counseling for
runaway youth

Family is reunified whenever
possible; otherwise, youths are
in stable alternative housing.

• Number and percent of youth who return home
• Number and percent of youth placed in alternative living arrangements who

are in that arrangement 6 months later unless they have been reunified or

Camping Children expand skills in areas
of interest to them.

• Number and percent of campers that identify two or more skills they have
learned at camp

Family planning for
teen mothers

Teen mothers have no second
pregnancies until they have
completed high school and have
the personal, family, and
financial resources to support a
second child.

• Number and percent of teen mothers who comply with family planning visits
• Number and percent of teen mothers using a recommended form of birth

• Number and percent of teen mothers who do not have repeat pregnancies

prior to graduation
• Number and percent of teen mothers who, at the time of next pregnancy, are

high school graduates, are married, and do not need public assistance to
provide for their children

Glossary of Selected Outcome Measurement Terms

Inputs are resources a program uses to achieve program objectives. Examples are staff, volunteers,
facilities, equipment, curricula, and money. A program uses inputs to support activities.

Activities are what a program does with its inputs-the services it provides-to fulfill its mission. Examples
are sheltering homeless families, educating the public about signs of child abuse, and providing adult
mentors for youth. Program activities result in outputs.

Outputs are products of a program’s activities, such as the number of meals provided, classes taught,
brochures distributed, or participants served. A program’s outputs should produce desired outcomes for
the program’s participants.

Outcomes are benefits for participants during or after their involvement with a program. Outcomes may
relate to knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, behavior, condition, or status. Examples of outcomes include
greater knowledge of nutritional needs, improved reading skills, more effective responses to conflict,
getting a job, and having greater financial stability.

For a particular program, there can be various “levels” of outcomes, with initial outcomes leading to
longer-term ones. For example, a youth in a mentoring program who receives one-to-one encouragement
to improve academic performance may attend school more regularly, which can lead to getting better
grades, which can lead to graduating.

Outcome indicators are the specific items of information that track a program’s success on outcomes.
They describe observable, measurable characteristics or changes that represent achievement of an
outcome. For example, a program whose desired outcome is that participants pursue a healthy lifestyle
could define “healthy lifestyle” as not smoking; maintaining a recommended weight, blood pressure, and
cholesterol level; getting at least two hours of exercise each week; and wearing seat belts consistently.
The number and percent of program participants who demonstrate these behaviors then is an indicator of
how well the program is doing with respect to the outcome.

Outcome targets are numerical objectives for a program’s level of achievement on its outcomes. After a
program has had experience with measuring outcomes, it can use its findings to set targets for the
number and percent of participants expected to achieve desired outcomes in the next reporting period. It
also can set targets for the amount of change it expects participants to experience.

Benchmarks are performance data that are used for comparative purposes. A program can use its own
data as a baseline benchmark against which to compare future performance. It also can use data from
another program as a benchmark. In the latter case, the other program often is chosen because it is
exemplary and its data are used as a target to strive for, rather than as a baseline.