Theory of Change: how we plan (and explain our plans!)

We[1] are working on a [new strategic plan]. We’re using an approach called a “Logic Model”. I like this because it is explicit about our theory of change — the links between what we want to happen and what we do and back the other way actual results

You may have heard me talk about logic models before. This post is a quick refresher — or introduction for anyone to whom this is new.

This is an example Logic Model from a talk I did at Flock in 2016[2]. It shows a theoretical logic model for the five-year mission of the original USS Enterprise on classic Star Trek:

The “logic” flows from concrete, pragmatic concerns on the left side (who is available, what resources do they have, etc.) to the grand goals on the right. The double line in the middle marks an important split: to the left of that is things we can affect directly, while to the right, it’s things we expect will happen based on that, but which are really out of our control.

You can read it in either direction.

From the right side, think “for this impact to happen, we’ll need these measurable outcomes; for those outcomes, we’ll need these outputs; for those outputs, we’ll need these actives; and for these actives, we’ll need these resources (or inputs).” This is useful for planning: when the model is complete, you know what you’ll need to get the result you want.

From the left side, read “if we have these resources, we can do these activities, which will produce these outputs, which will cause this outcome, which will have the intended final impact.” This is useful for justifying effort and expenditures: you can draw a direct link to the result.[3]

Here’s a generic ASCII-line-drawing example / template:[4]

 |            |            |             ||             |             |
 | Resources  | Activities |  Outputs    || Outcomes    |   Impact    |
 |            |            |             ||             |             |
 |What we     |What we do  |The direct   ||The specific | Mission and |
 |have: time, |with our    |products of  ||change in the| vision; our |
 |money, code,|resources   |our          ||world due to | long term   |
 |hardware... |            |activities   ||those outputs| effect      |
 | Things we can affect directly         || Out of our direct control |
 |           <----- planning flows right to left ---------<           |
 |           >------ effort flows left to right ---------->           |

If you want more background, there are a bunch of youtube videos on the topic. If you prefer something more formal, check out the Kellogg Foundation Logic Model Development Guide[5]. And if you have any questions… ask away!

  1. “we” meaning Fedora Council, but also all of us — Fedora at large! ↩︎

  2. I don’t think there’s video, unfortunately ↩︎

  3. Either to validate that something you’re doing makes sense, or to find gaps and make requests of potential sponsors. ↩︎

  4. not for use as an actual template — honestly, the best way I’ve found to do this is on a physical whiteboard… ↩︎

  5. Yes, it’s the breakfast cereal people — they have a charitable foundation, and want to make sure the money they give goes to effective projects ↩︎


There are also a tons of examples in our wiki: Search results for "logic model" - Fedora Project Wiki
I think the newest one is from the community revamp.

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