Step 02
Understanding Your Program Using Logic Modeling

Describe your program components and intended outcomes using a Logic Model, which provides a visual representation of how your program is intended to work.

Evaluations of youth programs are better when they are grounded in a clear program theory. A youth program can more effectively learn from their evaluation when they have clear goals, objectives, and expected outcomes.

A logic model clarifies all the components and intended outcomes of the program so the evaluation of your program can focus on the most central and important questions. Creating an accurate logic model is important, as it ensures that stakeholders participating in the design of the evaluation have a complete understanding of the program.

What is your program theory?
What are your program components and your intended outcomes?


A logic model that provides an accurate description of the relationship between program activities and intended helps you to answer the following question: What is your program trying to accomplish, how and for whom?


While there are a variety of templates to draw from, most logic models include the following five components:

Components 1, 2 and 3 make up your planned work while 4 and 5 make up your intended results.

Key Actions


To answer the question, what is your program trying to accomplish, you need a good program description with clarity and agreement on the following six areas:

  1. The “big need” your program addresses: For many youth programs, this need will fall into one or more of the 7 theme areas of Stepping Up
  2. The key target groups(s): Stepping Up identifies several priority youth groups that youth programs often target.
  3. The outcomes you hope to achieve with your program: Stepping Up identifies 20 outcomes
  4. The activities your program needs to undertake: The program activities that your program offers to youth participants that will bring about the change
  5. The program logic or program theory: The causal relationship among activities and outcomes.
  6. The context (surrounds) or bounds of your program: What you start with, such as the inputs and assumptions


Ready, Set, Go! Prepare and develop/assemble the information you need for your logic model:

  1. Prepare and Identify: Determine purpose of your logic model (Who will use it? For what?) and set the boundaries (Level of specificity; Understand your situation).
  2. Sources of Information: Examples – Program stakeholders, written program description, work plans, previous logic models, funding proposals, research, knowledge base, what others are doing/have done


Identify and list activities and intended effects or outcomes:

  1. Activities: What a program does with its inputs (resources). Program activities result in outputs. Example: providing adult mentors for youth
  2. Intended Effects or Outcomes: Outcomes are more specific statements about what the program intends to accomplish, what change it helps to achieve for the youth in the program. Outcome evaluation is about showing this change.


Ask: Is there a logical sequence to the activities and outcomes?

  1. Divide the activities into 2 or more columns based on their logical sequence. Which activities have to occur before other activities can occur?
  2. Do the same with the outcomes. Which outcomes have to occur before other outcomes can occur?
  3. A Series of “If, Then” Statements…
    If 1 then 2, if 2 then 3, if 3 then 4, if 4 then 5”
If Then

Source: W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Logic Model Development Guide, p. 3.


Causal arrows can be used to enhance a logic model.
Arrows can go from:

  • Which activities feed which other activities?
  • Which activities produce which intended outcomes?
  • Which early outcomes produce which later outcomes?


Review and Revise for completeness, logic and presentation.

Hot Tips

Did you know that program theory has two main components?

The first component is the theory of change for the program, which details how change is achieved. The second component is the theory of action, which addresses what specific actions, at what levels of success, need to occur for desired outcomes to be achieved.

YouthREX believes that a logic model that summarizes underlying theories of change is a much more powerful tool than alternatives.

It is highly recommended that your program theory successfully serves your stakeholders, including youth, community members, and staff. Sometimes, to make sure this happens, it might be a good idea to summarize the same program theory in different ways for different stakeholders.


What is the difference between a Logic Model and a Theory of Change?

A logic model graphically illustrates program components with clearly identified inputs, activities, outputs and outcomes.
A Theory of Change links outcomes and activities, thereby explaining HOW and WHY the desired changes are expected to come about.

Therefore, a Theory of Change has an additional explanatory function.

When should my youth program use a logic model vs. theory of change?

Logic Models are great when you need to:

  • Show something one can understand at a glance
  • Demonstrate you have identified the basic inputs, outputs & outcomes for your work
  • Summarize a complex theory into basic categories

Theories of Change are great when you need to:

  • Design a complex initiative & want to have a rigorous plan for success
  • Evaluate appropriate outcomes at the right time & the right sequence
  • Explain why an initiative worked or did not work

What are the benefits of a logic model?

The top four benefits of a logic model are that they…:

  1. Build consensus among stakeholders, including funders, about how activities translate into expected outcomes
  2. Identify opportunities for program improvements
  3. Spell out beliefs and assumptions inherent to a program’s design
  4. Allow you to assess your program’s ability to be successful, and take note of factors that predict success’

When should a logic model be developed?

A program logic model should be developed in the program planning stage to develop activities for desired outcomes and early in the evaluation process to serve as a resource for developing evaluation questions and performance indicators. Ideally, you should develop your logic model as soon as possible, even if the program is already up and running. If your program has a logic model but it hasn’t been reviewed or updated in a number of years, it’s time to do this!

Citation: Theories of Change and Logic Models: Telling Them Apart by Helene Clark and Andrea A. Anderson (2004)
Tools / Templates / Checklists

Developing an Overview of Your Youth Program

This tool will help stakeholders develop a shared understanding of your program’s background, goals, and components, to set the basis for identifying what you want to learn about your program.

Source: YouthREX adapted tool from Evaluation Toolkit by Magnet Schools

Critical Elements in a High-Quality Logic Model

Use this checklist to preview 15 elements critical to the process of creating a high-quality logic model for achieving project goals.

Source: Evaluation Toolkit for Magnet School Programs

YouthREX Logic Model Template

Create your own logic model using this fillable PDF.

Source: YouthREX

Differentiating Outputs From Outcomes

Use this tool to help you clearly understand and differentiate between your program’s outputs and outcomes.

Source: Evaluation Toolkit for Magnet School Program
Learn More...

Understanding Logic Models by way of a Simple Analogy

by Michael Brand

Guide: W.K. Kellogg Foundation Logic Model Development Guide

by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation


A logic model is “a picture of how your program works – the theory and assumptions underlying the program. This model provides a road map of your program, highlighting how it is expected to work, what activities need to come before others and how desired outcomes are achieved.”

W.K. Kellogg Foundation Evaluation Handbook, 1998, p.35