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How Theories of change and logframes differ

  • 5 min read
  • Evaluation

Theory of change and logic frameworks are two popular approaches for planning, monitoring and evaluating extension projects. They both aim to show how an intervention leads to desired outcomes and impacts, but they differ in their focus, format and purpose. In this episode, we’ll explain the differences between these two methods and how they can be used effectively in different contexts.

We’ve previously discussed how a Theory of change (ToC) is a process of articulating the assumptions, pathways and mechanisms that underlie how a project or program will achieve its goals. It’s often presented as a diagram with narrative text that illustrates the causal links between activities, outputs, outcomes and impacts. A ToC also identifies the external factors and risks that may affect the change process, the evidence or indicators that can be used to measure progress and success, as well as the assumptions that underlie it.

A logic framework (or logframe) is a tool for designing, managing and evaluating a project or program based on the clear logic of inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes and impacts. It is usually presented as a matrix or table that summarises the key elements, such as objectives, targets and assumptions. A logframe also helps to define the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders and partners involved.

The main difference between a ToC and a logframe is that a ToC provides a comprehensive and holistic view of how change happens, while a logframe provides a concise and structured view of what the project or program does. A ToC is more flexible and adaptable to complex and dynamic contexts, where there may be multiple pathways and actors influencing change. A logframe is more linear, assuming a direct and predictable relationship between inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes and impacts.

Another difference is that a ToC is more focused on explaining why and how change happens, while a logframe is more focused on describing what the project or program does and where it might be monitored and evaluated. A ToC helps to clarify the assumptions and hypotheses behind the intervention logic, as well as the evidence base that supports them. A logframe helps to specify the indicators and targets that will be used to measure performance and results.

A third difference is that a ToC is mainly used as a tool for design, while a logframe is mainly used as a tool for evaluation and reporting. A ToC can help to identify the most relevant and effective strategies and interventions for achieving the desired change, as well as the potential risks and challenges that may arise along the way. A logframe can help to plan, implement and track the activities and outputs, as well as report on the outcomes and impacts achieved.

Both ToC and logframe have their strengths and limitations, depending on the purpose, context and audience. They are not mutually exclusive, but rather complementary methods that can be used together to enhance the quality and effectiveness of interventions. Some practitioners suggest that ToC should be used first to develop a clear vision and theory of how change happens, followed by a logframe to operationalise and monitor the intervention logic. Others argue that ToC can replace logframe altogether, as it offers a more realistic and nuanced way of capturing the complexity and diversity of change processes.

We think it comes down to personal preference! Regardless of which approach we use, it is important to remember that both ToC and logframe are not static or fixed products, but rather dynamic and iterative processes that require constant reflection and learning. They should be seen as living documents that can be revised and updated as new information, evidence or feedback emerges. They should also be used as communication tools that can facilitate dialogue and collaboration among different stakeholders and partners.

We think this is captured neatly in this infographic from Brown (n.d.), which compares and contrasts the two approaches. 

We hope this episode has helped you understand the difference between Theory of change and Logic frameworks, as well as their potential uses in extension. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share them below. As you know, we want this to be a two-way conversation! 

Thanks folks for reading this Enablers of change episode. Remember to subscribe to our newsletter if you’d like to know when new episodes are available. And if you liked what you heard, please tell your friends so they too can join the conversation! 

Resources

Ann-Murray Brown (n.d.). Theory of Change versus Logical Framework. Available online.

Centre for Theory of Change (u.d.) What is Theory of change? Available online.  

Neerman (n.d.). Understanding Logical Framework and Theory of Change. Available online

Tools4Dev (n.d.). Theory of Change vs Logical Framework – what’s the difference? Available online.

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