The Logic Model: A Look at Outcomes and Indicators
One of the most important things to keep in mind when creating a logic model is who will be reviewing it—your intended audience. The framework is useful as a communication tool only when it properly addresses end users. Work on reducing complexity and keeping the model simple for program stakeholders, both internal and external to your organization.
Your intended audience will be most concerned about the program’s impact (outcomes) and the benchmarks that determine progress toward these results (indicators). A logic model isn’t complete without inputs, activities, and outputs, but outcomes and indicators are the true meat of the figure.
In a previous blog post we briefly described outcomes.
- Short-term outcomes produce increasing knowledge, skills, and attitudes.
- Intermediate outcomes affect behavior.
- Long-term outcomes have an impact on the big picture theory of change you wish to see.
Indicators provide the roadmap toward new knowledge, behavior, and impact. They are tangible metrics that show if a program is doing what it promised it would do and achieving stated outcomes.
Indicators in action
One of the most useful purposes of a logic model is that it helps to articulate what you can measure about your program. Indicators are especially powerful because they show progress toward outcomes, including those that may be a long time in the making. For each of the below short-, medium- and long-term outcomes, indicators provide evidence of goal completion.
Let’s build on our prior theory of change: If multiple meal programs are available throughout the city, then more hungry people will be fed.
- Short-term outcome: City leaders believe developing more meal programs is important.
- Indicator #1: Surveys gleaning leaders’ knowledge about the impact of meal programs in the city’s history
- Indicator #2: Interviews assessing leaders’ attitudes about allocating funds for new meal programs
- Medium-term outcome: City leaders vote to create more meal programs across the metropolitan area.
- Indicator #1: The percentage of local funds invested in expanding programs for the hungry
- Indicator #2: The number of meal programs offering hot meals across the city
- Long-term outcome: More city residents have access to hot food, and fewer people go hungry.
- Indicator #1: Meal programs’ combined data about the number of people served in a specified time
- Indicator #2: Mortality rate of homeless people in the city year-over-year
Indicators must pace with outcomes. Short-term indicators must be able to quickly show movement toward short-term goals, whereas long-term indicators may be metrics that take years to come to fruition. Establish appropriate indicators after outcomes are determined; indicator development follows outcome creation to measure a program’s progress toward results.
Remember, evaluation isn’t a one-time event that you conduct after a year of programming. Each program has an evaluation approach that answers your guiding evaluation question; these elements determine the frequency of evaluation. You can infuse evaluation throughout your program cycle. Especially with outcome-based evaluations, it is important to evaluate as you assess indicators. This timing will depend on your short-, medium- and long-term goals.
For more information about program evaluation, check out my blog post, “Program Evaluation and Your Organization.” If you could use some expert support with outcome and indicator development specifically or program evaluation overall, contact organizational development consulting firm Brighter Strategies today.