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Program Planning and Evaluation Using the Logic Model

Groups start by identifying the change that they want to have happen and then determine the steps that it will require. - H Mark SmithFor funded organizations to more deeply engage their patrons, the challenge was clear: Develop programs that would both reach more people and would enable them to experience a more profound connection to the arts. But transforming good intentions into solid programs is not always easy. To facilitate clear thinking about program goals and the correlating action steps, many of the organizations in the Participation Learning Network were asked to adopt the logic model for program development and evaluation.

The logic model was first formulated in the department of public administration at the University of Southern California in the 1970s to enhance performance and accountability of public and nonprofit organizations. The Kellogg Foundation promoted wider use of the logic model in the late 1980s and early 1990s, reasoning, "Clear ideas about what you plan to do and why—as well as an organized approach to capturing, documenting and disseminating program results—enhance the case for investment in your program."

A detailed Logic Model Development Guide is available on the Kellogg Foundation’s web site. "The process of developing the model is an opportunity to chart the course," write the Kellogg program staff. "It is a conscious process that creates an explicit understanding of the challenges ahead, the resources available and the timetable in which to hit the target."

At the Mass Cultural Council, applications to the YouthReach funding program are built on the logic model approach. "It leads to intentional programming," says H. Mark Smith, the Mass Cultural Council YouthReach Program Manager and one of the main facilitators of the Participation Learning Network. "Groups start by identifying the change that they want to have happen and then determine the steps that it will require." Illustration of a logic model

Using the model as the basis of a grant application also emphasizes function over rhetoric. Says Smith, "The logic model helps groups focus on program plans and goals rather than on wording and narrative."

As a first step, participants were asked to articulate a "theory of change" that summarizes how the organization will change as the result of the proposed program. The logic model itself is built on a table and flow-chart format. Columns delineate inputs (available resources), activities (actions needed for implementation), outputs (products, materials, and knowledge gained from the activities) and outcomes (the specific changes that have been achieved). Once an organization has completed the flow chart, its goals have been distilled into a graphic depiction of what the Kellogg Foundation describes as a "clear map of the road ahead." (See sample logic model worksheet.)

That clarity enables staff members to conduct ongoing assessments as they implement their plans. Midway through the funding process, organizations were asked to evaluate their projected outputs and outcomes against their actual progress so they could make any necessary mid-course corrections.

Photo by Justin Knight of a symphonic concert at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. "We asked organizations to focus on what they had learned, not on whether they had failed or succeeded," Smith explains. This non-judgmental approach encouraged organizations to depart from the tried-and-true and to take risks in exploring new directions. "We encouraged organizations to be candid about their experiences and gave them a high degree of flexibility to learn from their mistakes and adjust their plans accordingly."

Smith acknowledges, however, that participating organizations approached the logic model with skepticism. "It's very disciplined," he says. "At first it felt like yet another grant-seeking exercise as opposed to a program-planning tool."

Elizabeth Taylor-Mead, Associate Director of the Coolidge Corner Theatre Foundation, admits that it took her some time to warm up to the logic model approach to planning. "But I could see that if you could get into it, it would be helpful," she says. "Once we completed it, I thought, 'Of course! Once you do one thing, it will make another thing happen.'"

John Beck, Director of Operations at Arts- Boston, also approached the task of creating the logic model with reluctance. "The first time we did it because we had to," he says. "The second time we did it because it worked."

Photo of young women dancing courtesy of The StrandKit Jenkins, Executive Director of Raw Art Works, notes, "Almost all the work on the grant was done in training sessions." As part of the learning process, organizations met in small groups to discuss and critique each others' preliminary logic models. As a result, each final plan was rooted in a broader perspective and informed by the experiences and expertise of peer organizations.

As a program-planning tool, the logic model promotes what the Kellogg Foundation calls "group process and shared understanding." In addition, "other groups feel invested in our work because they can see that we followed their advice," says ArtsBoston Executive Director Catherine Peterson.

ArtsBoston, in fact, internalized the process. "Before we launched the ArtsBoston.org web site (see their profile), we developed a logic model for all our constituencies and identified outcomes for up to three years out," says Beck.

Peterson describes an all-inclusive process. "It was a total team effort and everybody has ownership," she says. "Staff worked in teams to develop the logic model and we shared it with the board. Our entire organization wrapped its arms around moving forward in a systematic way. It's a living document. I look at it weekly. John sleeps with it under his pillow."

NEXT: Targeted Audience Outreach Efforts

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