Step 1: Develop program logic and review needs
An early planning step in a program evaluation is to describe how the program is intended to work, using program logic. You may want to review the needs the program aims to address, through a needs assessment.
Use in program design and program evaluation
Program logic and needs assessment are tools used for both:
- designing programs
- conducting program evaluation.
Program design should include program logic, linking the program activities to the program aims and intended outcomes. It should also use needs assessment to give provide evidence about the needs the program aims to address.
Program design should consider evaluation from the beginning, so that rigorous methods of outcome evaluation and associated collection are in place.
For program evaluation, reviewing the program logic will provide a description of the program and its intended outcomes. This will help shape the evaluation questions and data collection methods. Needs assessment can be used to review the relevance of the program settings.
Develop or review the program logic
A program logic should show how your project will work by linking program activities with intended outcomes. You can show the intended causal links for the program.
Different terms are used for this tool, including:
- program logic
- program theory
- logic model
- theory of change
- causal model
- outcomes hierarchy
- results chain
- intervention logic.
Often this tool is shown as a one-page diagram.
The diagrams and terms used with program logic can vary. Examples of how various ways this tool can be displayed include:
- a series of boxes
- in a table
- a series of results, with activities occurring alongside them rather than just at the start.
- causal links from left to right
- causal links from bottom to top.
All program logic should show a set of causal relationships at the right scale and level. You should use the approach and appropriate terms and language that are used in your industry and are relevant to your project.
There is no one way to represent program logic but it should:
- be a representation of the program's causal links
- communicate to the intended audience
- help your audience understand the program.
Program logic can also find other influences on your program's planned outcomes. When used in program design, it can show external factors and possible negative outcomes, which can be used to refine the program design.
The program logic can be developed or reviewed at different times in the program cycle:
- before a program starts
- during implementation
- as part of a program evaluation.
It is a tool used in planning and evaluation to:
- clarify and communicate intended outcomes and assumptions
- make causal assumptions explicit and test how they are supported by evidence
- provide a framework for monitoring or evaluation
- tell the story of how a program works.
Program logic processes
Developing program logic is partly an analytical process and partly a consultative process.
Analytically, program logic should review the program settings to find statements of:
- intended outcomes.
Once these statements have been found you can refine and assemble these statements into a causal chain. The causal chain can show how activities may contribute to immediate, medium and long-term outcomes.
Consultatively, the program logic process should involve working with a range of stakeholders and their understanding of the outcomes and logic. The consultative process also encourages stakeholders to have greater ownership of the final program logic diagram.
Needs assessment is a systematic method to decide:
- who needs the program
- how great the need is
- characteristics of the target group
- patterns of unmet needs
- what might work to meet the needs identified.
Needs assessment is used to develop or refine program settings and see if the program is still needed. It is a tool that can be used for program planning. It can also be a part of a program evaluation to review the current pattern of needs. It can be used to see if the program settings are still appropriate. For example, if the needs identified in the program design still exist and warrant the program.
Examples of key evaluation questions for needs assessment are:
- What problems exist and how big or serious are they?
- What are the characteristics and needs of the target population?
- What are needs unmet by the program?