6a. What is a “logical framework”?
A logical framework (logframe) can be thought of as the blueprint for your project. It clearly describes in table format what your project will do, the deliverables that it will produce, and the results that it will achieve. The logical framework describes a “chain of causality” linking specific activities to a desired change. Developing a logical framework is fairly straightforward if you have developed a good understanding of the problem you are seeking to address (see Chapter 5).
Most small grants proposal templates require you to provide a logframe table.1In some cases, you will not be asked to provide a table, but rather to describe the project in a narrative format. However, even if you are not required to provide a table, you may find it useful to organize your project into a table before describing it in words. The table below is a generic logframe table. The formatting and language for different funders may vary slightly, but the essence is the same.
|Project Objective||Project Impacts|
|A short statement of the goal of the project||A description of the longer-term contribution your project will make to improved livelihoods or betterment of the community|
|Outcome 1: The change your project creates|
|Output 1.1: The goods and services your project produces|
|Activity 1.1.1: The things your project does|
Note that the full logical framework includes information on risks and monitoring (the “baseline,” “indicator,” “target,” “risks,” and “assumptions” columns); we will cover these topics in Chapters 7 and 8 respectively. In this chapter we will focus primarily on the project structure, which is described in the first column in the table above. Most logframe formats have similar characteristics, as described below, although they may use different terminology. Additionally, notice how the outcomes, outputs, and activities are numbered and how they relate to one another.
The objective of the project, sometimes called the “goal,” is a short, clear description of what the project intends to achieve. The objective should be a simple statement, and generally does not include “through” or “by” language, as in the following examples:
- The objective of this project is to improve the resilience of traditional taro cultivation systems to the impacts of climate change.
- The objective of this project is to enhance the preparedness of coastal communities to extreme events driven by climate change.
- The objective of this project is to improve community water security against more frequent droughts.
The impacts describe the broader contribution that your project will make to broader aspects of the community (e.g., livelihoods, resilience, adaptive capacity, well-being). These are generally medium- to long-term changes in the community. If you are using the problem tree/objective tree methodology described in Chapter 5, the impacts will come from the “branches” of your objective tree. Impacts are different from outcomes (see below) because they are generally outside the scope and control of the project. In other words, your project will contribute to an impact, but the project will not make the impact happen all by itself.
For example, one impact of our taro project might be reduced poverty in rural areas. The taro project by itself cannot be expected to create a measurable change in rural poverty since poverty reduction takes more time than the project has and requires other factors to be in place. However, the project can contribute to poverty reduction by creating conditions that contribute to a longer-term reduction in poverty.
Not all small grants proposal templates ask for a description of impacts. It is generally a good idea to link impacts to goals that have been identified in relevant strategies and policies (see Chapter 3).
The outcomes of the project describe what the project intends to accomplish by the end of the implementation period. Unlike impacts, the outcomes are a direct result of the project. Outcome statements can describe a change in behavior of the beneficiaries of the project or performance changes in a system, organization, or institution. You may think of project outcomes as a capability that an organization will have after the project that it did not have before the project, or a new, more sustainable way of managing resources that is adopted by the community as a result of the project. Some examples of project outcomes include:
- Taro production in rural communities increases.
- Marine resource management practices are responsive to changes in climate conditions.
- Access to water in the community improves.
The outputs are the goods and services that your project creates to achieve its outcome(s). They may include facilities, assets, skills, abilities, methodologies, and other “things” that enable the change to happen. Often there is confusion between outputs and outcomes; even experienced project developers can get confused as to the difference between them. However, over time and as you gain experience, the distinction will become clearer to you. In general, outputs refer to goods and services that the project produces, whereas outcomes refer to the benefits that the goods and services provide (how the outputs are used).
As illustrated in the table above, outcomes may have several outputs. The outputs could be described as all the conditions that need to be put in place for the desired change (outcomes) to occur. For example, to achieve the outcome of “taro production in rural communities increases”, we will likely have to provide several “goods and services”, or outputs, such as the following:
- Taro farmers gain skills in climate-resilient cultivation techniques. In this case, the skills can be considered a good that will help them improve production.
- Taro farmers’ cooperative established. Here the cooperative is also a “good” that can help the farmers market their produce.
- Agricultural extension program for taro production established. In this case, the establishment of the extension program could be considered a “good.” Another way to phrase this might be “rural extension services improved.”
The activities are the specific tasks that produce the outputs. Activities are the things that you do. Several activities may be needed to produce one specific output. For example, the output “rural farmers gain skills in climate-resilient taro cultivation techniques” may require any or all of the following activities:
- Develop and distribute guidebook in local language on climate-resilient taro cultivation techniques
- Conduct workshops for farmers on climate-resilient taro cultivation techniques
- Establish a demonstration plot to show climate-resilient taro cultivation techniques
- Develop extension materials to help local agriculture agency teach climate-resilient taro cultivation techniques
- Conduct training-of-trainers for local extension officers and heads of farmers associations on climate-resilient taro cultivation techniques
The inputs are the resources that are required to implement the activities and produce the outputs.2In some cases, the logical framework table template provided by the funder will have a space for inputs, but in most cases, inputs are described in the project’s budget. The primary input for most projects is money, but in some cases, inputs may include equipment or expertise. The proposal template for some small grants may not ask for inputs because it is understood that the funds to be provided by the grant are the input. Inputs are usually described in the procurement section of the proposal.
Putting it all together
To simplify, you can think of the “chain of causality” described in your logframe in this way:
- If we have these inputs, then we will be able to do these activities.
- If we do these activities, then we will produce these goods/services (outputs).
- If we produce these goods/services, then we can expect this change to occur (outcome).
- If this outcome happens, we will achieve our objective (goal), and it will contribute to broader improvement in our community (impact).
6b. Structuring your logical framework
Now that we have discussed the basics of the logical framework, we will walk through the steps of building your own logframe. Items from actual small grants templates include:
- Describe the activities to be undertaken and their key outputs. Include a short logframe table showing the objectives, outcomes, and outputs.
- Describe the project’s workplan, including the activities, outputs, outcomes, and objectives.
- Provide a table describing the logical structure of how your project will achieve the stated objective.
The activities, outputs, and outcomes that you design for your project should be aligned with your theory of change (see Chapter 5). If you have used the problem tree/objective tree tool, you may take your outcomes and outputs (and in some cases your activities) from the “roots” of your objective tree, while the project objective can be taken from the core problem/solution.3Note that there may be some variations depending on how you have structured your problem tree/objective tree. Where you begin is a matter of preference, but many project developers will describe the project objective first, and then formulate the outcome(s).
Outcomes. As noted above, the outcome should be a clear description of a change that the project will cause to happen. In most cases, the outcome statement is written in the past tense. Choose an outcome that can be measured, because when you develop your monitoring plan (see Chapter 7), you will need to be able to indicate that the change occurred in some measurable way. Compare the change that you expect to a baseline situation. Use words such as “improved” and “enhanced.”
As a general rule, it is good to be ambitious with respect to your outcomes, but not unrealistic in what you can expect to achieve. The number of outcomes a project has usually depends on the size of the project; small grants projects generally (but not always) have one outcome.
Outputs. Once you have determined your outcomes, refer to the objective tree to determine what goods or services need to be put in place to achieve the outcome. Good outputs are clear and generally easy to measure. These are generally called the deliverables.
Activities. Once you have determined the outputs that you need to produce, it is a relatively simple task to design the activities needed to produce them. Make sure that your activities are locally appropriate and acceptable. Additionally, you should make sure that your activities are accessible to all stakeholders and do not unnecessarily or unwittingly exclude any groups (see Chapter 4). Consider the number, amount, frequency, and other characteristics of any activity you plan to undertake. In some cases, you may only need to produce one deliverable (e.g., “handbook for climate-resilient agriculture produced”), whereas in other cases you may need to produce several (e.g., “four climate-resilient agriculture workshops conducted plus one handbook for climate-resilient agriculture produced”).
Remember that the outcome needed to achieve the project objective is usually specific to your community. In other words, the change that you need to bring about with your project depends on local conditions and circumstances. However, once you have identified the change that you want to make happen, you can look at examples from other projects that worked to make a similar change to see what approaches were effective in similar circumstances.4The website for your funder may contain previous project examples, or you may do an internet search for GEF small grants projects related to the topic of your project. Depending on the type of project you are designing, there may be “best-practices” manuals that describe activities and outputs that have worked elsewhere. These best practices can help you design your own outputs and activities.
Once you have your logical framework laid out, you should “test your logic” by talking through the chain of causality. Ask yourself the following questions, and, if possible, ask other stakeholders as well:
- If we conduct these activities, is it reasonable to expect that we will be able to produce these outputs?
- If we produce these outputs, will it be sufficient to lead to the desired change (outcome) within the specified project period?
- Have we forgotten anything (e.g., GEDSI considerations)?
- Are the activities, outputs, and outcomes realistic?
The logical framework is the backbone and blueprint for your project proposal and serves as the basis and justification for your project budget. A good logical framework includes well-described activities, outputs, and outcomes that provide a clear picture of how the project will be implemented. You should also remember that a successful logical framework is rooted in a solid understanding of the problem that the project seeks to address, is defined through a well thought through problem/objective tree (recall Chapter 5), and has an inclusive design that ensures that a wide range of stakeholders in the community enjoy the benefits of the project.
This guidebook has waited until Chapter 6 to describe the logical framework; this is to help you avoid the temptation (and common mistake) of jumping right into the design of activities without carefully considering the complex nature of the problem, its linkages to broader priorities, and inclusiveness issues.