Differences between the Theory of Change and the Logic Model

In my last article I gave a summary of the Theory of Change (ToC) and I realise from my own experience that there is often confusion between the Theory of Change and the Logical Framework. However, just as the photo of the conjoined twins above, both concepts belong to same family and are closely connected but they are not the same.

Before I explore the differences, it is good to state that the Logical Framework approach has been around for several decades and was the first widespread attempt to depict programme components so that activities are matched to outcomes.

The approach when shown as a matrix is called a log frame and when shown as a flow chart it is sometimes called a logic model. Throughout this article I will use both terms interchangeably.

Now let’s get down to business by highlighting the differences between the ToC and the Log frame.

Difference #1:

The ToC gives the ‘big picture’ and summarises work at a strategic level, while a logical framework illustrate a programme (implementation) level understanding of the change process. In other words, the Logical Framework is like a microscopic lens that zooms in on a specific pathway within the TOC.

Image Source: Piroska Bisits Bullen's, accessed at Tools4Dev http://www.tools4dev.org/resources/theory-of-change-vs-logical-framework-whats-the-difference-in-practice/

Let’s imagine the fictitious Non-governmental Organisation (NGO), “Fi Di Woman Dem” for a moment. This NGO believes in a world where women are safe and can realise their full potential. As such, they developed a ToC to capture the change process and to serve as a roadmap for how they hope to achieve their goal (see diagram below). For the purposes of this article I have simplified the ToC.

Image Source: Piroska Bisits Bullen's, accessed at Tools4Dev http://www.tools4dev.org/resources/theory-of-change-vs-logical-framework-whats-the-difference-in-practice/

Using the ToC, they got the support of the donor to fund their ‘Women Empowerment’ programme. The ToC gives the broad picture, but once the funding was approved, the donor wanted to see how the project would be implemented. How would the women know about their rights? Exactly how would women become more vocal? What would skills would they be trained in? All these questions would then be answered in the Logical Framework that gives this level of detail.

In the example below, I created a Logic model for two outcomes within the ToC; that is ‘women are economically independent’ and ‘Women are empowered”. Once again, for the explanatory purposes of this article, I kept the charts very simple. An actual logic model would have far more details such the type of skills training the women would receive, the types of foreseen income generation activities etc. *You will have to hit the 'zoom' function on your browser to read the diagram properly*.

Image Source: Piroska Bisits Bullen's, accessed at Tools4Dev http://www.tools4dev.org/resources/theory-of-change-vs-logical-framework-whats-the-difference-in-practice/

An organisation which works in multiple sectors, in different thematic areas and in different contexts though they have one ToC, may end up having sevearl Logical frameworks to reflect the different programmes that flow from the ToC. In other words, a Logic Model/Logical Framework may be developed for every single outcome that is depicted on the ToC.

Difference #2:

The ToC gives focus to the complex social, economic, political and institutional processes that underlie societal change. It also shows all the different pathways that might lead to change, even if those pathways are not related to your program. This is why many ToCs end up looking like artwork that take on a variety of shapes and forms.

‘Two of the more creative ToCs’

The Logical Framework on the other hand, true to its name, presents the intervention in a ‘logical’, sequential way. Neat, clean and tidy where ‘X leads to Y’. With the Logical Framework, only components directly connected to the programme is depicted. It is linear which means that all activities lead to outputs which lead to outcomes and the goal – there are no cyclical processes or feedback loops (see example below).

There is usually limited flexibility and little room for the emergence of unexpected outcomes with the Logical Framework. You can glance at the Logical Framework and see if outcomes are out of sync with inputs and activities, it does not show why activities are expected to produce outcomes.

In contrast, the ToC shows the why the how and has justifications at each step. In other words, the ToC has a rationale for why one outcome leads to the next. Furthermore, ToC is meant to be a ‘living’ document; revised and updated as the context changes.

Difference #3:

The development of a ToC usually begins from the 'top', with the identification of a ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG)’ and then working backwards to map the outcome pathways. In developing the ToC, the question that is asked is ‘if we do X then Y will change because…

A Logical framework on the other hand is usually designed after a ToC or intervention/programme is developed. In other words, the Logical Framework usually does not start with the BHAG, but starts at the 'bottom', depicting the inputs, activities, outputs etc., that lead to the goal. The question that would be asked in developing a Logical Framework is ‘If we plan to do X, then this will give Y result’.

Image source: Tools4Dev. http://www.tools4dev.org/resources/how-to-write-a-logical-framework-logframe/

So, to summarise:

Determining Usage

Table reproduced from Clarke and Anderson, 2004.

That's all for now folks.

Do let me know how the article may be improved by leaving a comment below.


The contents of this article were partly informed by Piroska Bisits Bullen's article and a presentation by Clarke and Anderson, 2004.

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