Thursday, July 13, 2023

Is it a theory of change or a logic model? Which do I need?


There is a lot of confusion about the concept of a Logic Model and Theory of Change. Often the terms are used interchangeably, and the reality is that they are two different tools that can be used in the planning, implementation and evaluation of projects. 


A Theory of Change (TOC) is a broader conceptual framework for how change happens. It describes the hypothesized cause-effect relationships in a program or community change initiative. It takes into consideration the cultural context of a program or initiative and includes that as an element in the change process. TOC’s are more conceptual, and as a result are more flexible and adaptable. This creates an opportunity for continuous learning and adaptation in a large project while maintaining a “North Star” or long term impact that is to be achieved.  


A Logic Model is more structured and provides a visual representation of a program or community change initiative’s components. It includes the actual activities or things that are being done to achieve the various outcomes outlined in a Theory of Change. For this reason it can be a big help in the implementation phase of a project. It sets the stage for monitoring and evaluation. The combination of activities and outputs can be monitored early on in a project to ensure that the project has the resources needed, is reaching the intended target population, and is accomplishing initial short-term outcomes.  


Most organizations and their programs need a Logic Model. Programs and need to know the resources that are necessary to adequately support and maintain a program. Programs need to achieve initial outcomes that are aligned with other programs and organizations in the community. No one organization can solve some of the complex human service challenges found in our community today, and they need to a larger community impact. Logic Models are the tool for most organizations and their programs.

Community change initiatives need the time to develop and look at a Theory of Change. A TOC can help a community align around the impact they are trying to achieve. It can help organizations and individuals identify their role in the process of community change by acknowledging that not any one organization is responsible for community change. A TOC can help a community make decisions on where resources need to be invested, which gaps need to be filled, and support organizations in building the case for their program-related activities.