Background Information on Logic Models

Despite the current fanfare, logic models date back to the 1970s. The first publication that used the term “logic model” is usually cited as Evaluation: Promise and Performance by Joseph S. Wholey (1979). Bennett’s hierarchy, The Seven Levels of Evidence (1976), well-known in Cooperative Extension circles, is an early forerunner of today’s logic model. We see the antecedents and footprints of logic model thinking in many places: private sector, public sector, nonprofit sector, international area, evaluation field.

  • Private sector: The private sector has experienced total quality management (TQM) and performance measurement movements.
  • Public sector: GPRA (1993) moved all federal agencies to focus on results and link investments to results, not just activities.
  • Nonprofit sector: The nonprofit sector is concerned with improving programs to produce valued impacts. The United Way is a frontrunner in outcome measurement using the logic model.
  • International: The players in the international arena for a long time have used variations of a logic model. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Log Frame of the 1970s is a historical precedent to the current logic modeling discourse. Most of the international donor agencies use a form of program logic for planning and evaluation.
  • Evaluators: Evaluators have played a prominent role in using and developing the logic model. This may be why the logic model is often called an “evaluation framework.” In fact, the origins of the logic model go back to Suchman (1967) and Weiss (1972). Other influences were Bennett’s (1976) hierarchy of evidence, which was developed to evaluate the effectiveness of Extension programs, and Wholey’s (1979) evaluability techniques, developed to determine if a program is ready for evaluation. This work was a result of evaluators being asked to evaluate impact and finding that goals and objectives were vague; finding that programs didn’t exist or weren’t being implemented in a way that would achieve the expected results; and seeking new approaches for measuring causality [Bickman (1987), Chen (1990) theory-driven evaluation and Weiss (1997) theory-based evaluation]. Development and use of logic model concepts by evauators continue to result in a broad array of theoretical and practical applications (see Bibliography).

Many variations and types of logic models exist. For variations see 1) The W.K. Kellogg Foundation Logic Model Development Guide or 2) Getting to Outcomes 2004.

The logic model described in this course: In this course our focus is on using a logic model to enhance program performance through outcome accountability. We present the logic model as a framework for planning, implementation, and evaluation that links investments to results.

The logic model described has evolved since 1995 in Cooperative Extension at the University of Wisconsin, largely in response to the GPRA initiative (Government Performance and Results Act, 1993) and interest in being a learning organization. It was originally informed by the Bennett hierarchy of evidence and the USAID Log Frame and has evolved further in response to the burgeoning field of logic model practice. In particular, we would like to credit ideas and materials that we have used and adapted from United Way (1996), W.K. Kellogg Foundation (2001), H. Hatry (1999), G. Mayeske (1999), McLaughlin & Jordan (1999), and the Evaluation Forum in Seattle, WA.

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