Using planning and evaluation tools to make your vision and values real
In the fall of 2020, YDEKC adopted a new strategic plan and with it, a revised mission statement that more explicitly affirms our commitment to Black and Indigenous youth, and youth of color. We then focused on reimagining our work in accordance with our new plan and connecting that work to our vision of ensuring that every young person has the opportunity and support they need to learn, lead, connect, contribute, and thrive. For this, we turned to a familiar planning and evaluation tool – the logic model.
What is a logic model?
Logic models are structured documents that show how a program or initiative is supposed to work. We often create them at the program design phase and use them to monitor progress and report on outcomes. Over time, we have found that logic models have the potential to be more than just evaluation tools. When we ground them in organizational vision and continuously check them against organizational values, we can make them powerful tools for communication, collaboration, and sustainability. Here are some ideas for making your logic models all that they can be:
Start with your vision
We use logic models use to show how program activities lead to outcomes. But when we create them, we often stop short of including our long-term, aspirational vision due to a traditional emphasis on shorter-term measurement and reporting needs. By taking the time to think through your theory of change – how what you do will bring about the change you want to see – you can establish a concrete connection between the day-to-day and a meaningful vision for the future. YDEKC’s Measurement Toolkit includes activities designed to help groups work through their own theories of change using so-that chains or storyboards.
Identify what does not fit
The process of connecting activities to outcomes can also help established programs or organizations to identify program activities that seem unrelated to stated outcomes. These could be things that programs have done for a long time, but that no longer fit. Once you have identified these activities, consider the following questions: Are these still worth doing? If yes, are there important outcomes that we have not named in our model? If we let go of certain activities, what will be lost?
Screen for values
Do the activities, outputs, and outcomes described in your logic model reflect the values of your organization? Sometimes our work in the youth development sector is highly reflective of a set of core values, but our evaluation tools – logic models included – are not. At YDEKC, we have long held racial equity as a core value, but we have recently made this much more explicit in our mission, vision, and strategy statements. Part of the process of making our commitment to racial equity real is ensuring that our logic models name our equity goals and targets, and then measuring our work against those goals and targets.
Logic models are more robust when they are the product of broad collaboration. Different people will have different perspectives on your work that may prove valuable as you think about planning and evaluation. Use this simple stakeholder matrix to identify people who can help to develop or review your logic model.
Revisit, reevaluate, revise
Logic models are not static tools. Even if you have not formally adopted new goals or strategies, it is worth revisiting your logic model regularly to see if it still represents your work accurately. As circumstances change, your evaluation practice may need to adapt. Our list of logic model check-in guiding questions can help you get started with this process.
Recently, I had the opportunity to lead a webinar on developing a logic model in the context of school-community partnerships. You can view the slides and the recording from that session here. Or check out our full set of logic model resources in the logic model section of our Measurement Toolkit.