Logic models keep us from just “spinning our wheels”

By Nancy Zuercher, JVA Project Manager and Research Associate

The University of Colorado Denver has a program that provides professional development to teachers of English language learners. Once a month, as the program evaluator, I get to join a meeting of staff and coaches involved in the program; discuss their work in the schools, brainstorm ways to improve their practice and troubleshoot issues they may run into.

At last night’s meeting, a big topic was the work and activities of one particular coach. Several people were curious about the intended outcomes of her activities. We discussed how her day-to-day activities needed to align with the short-term and long-term goals and outcomes of her work. If they’re not aligned, she’ll be spending time doing things that won’t help achieve her goals and only distract from the work that is truly important.

I have the unique opportunity to work with amazing organizations and individuals who are passionate about their work to help people and the communities in which they live. Sometimes, this passion and drive can lead to people overextending themselves. It’s good to take a step back and look at the big picture and make sure our activities and strategies are aligned with what we hope to achieve. Otherwise we’re just “spinning our wheels” and making ourselves busier than we need to be!

One great tool to help us keep our eyes on the big picture is a logic model. While it’s a big term that intimidates a lot of people, it is nothing more than a roadmap to help us figure out where we’re going and how we’ll get there. Logic models ensure that our activities have a purpose and are moving us toward our intended outcomes.

The conversation last night created the framework for this particular coach’s logic model. By discussing “activities” and “outcomes,” we were well on our way to creating her personal logic model. Wouldn’t it be nice if we each had a logic model in our pocket to refer to every day to make sure our life was headed where we wanted and we were engaged in activities that would get us there?

While JVA Consulting may not be able to create a personal life logic model for you, we can help you create a logic model for your program or your organization. On March 30 and 31, JVA will offer Evaluation Intensive, a two-day workshop that will give you the tools you need to create logic models, evaluate your programs and put an end to just “spinning your wheels.” Click here to learn more and to register.

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2 Responses to Logic models keep us from just “spinning our wheels”

  1. Eric Graig says:

    JVA Consulting’s post is related to an important topic in the nonprofit world – is our work accomplishing something or are we just doing good.

    We’ve worked at places where the emphasis was on ‘good works’ rather than good results, so we appreciate how important this is. The post talked about the value of logic models as ‘road maps’ for laying out how program activities are linked to short and longer term outcomes. Logic models certainly can be seen as road maps but for us their value is really mostly in the process of creating them. In this sense they are heuristic devices that activate the process through which stakeholders make explicit the ideas and ideologies that underlie their work. You can find a tutorial we did on logic models here: http://www.usablellc.net/Logic%20Model%20(Online)/Presentation_Files/index.html

    Our post on Logic Models Theories of Change and Evaluation can be found here: http://www.usablellc.net/on-logic-models-theories-of-change-and-evaluation

  2. Pingback: Usable Knowledge

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