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By on September 10, 2013

Planning for prevention: What’s the logic behind my program?

Guest blog by Alexis Marbach, Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence

logic model graphicStrategic planning for prevention seems like such a luxury. Can you imagine stepping back from implementing a program, researching emerging trends in program delivery, and participating in an agency wide conversation around the efficacy of a given program? In an era of reduced funding (and subsequently reduced levels of staffing), comprehensive planning can fall by the wayside as we strive to give and do more with less. But what happens when we forge ahead without the thoughtful and sometimes complicated planning process? We run the risk of implementing a strategy that fails to meet the needs of our audience (culturally, developmentally) and fails to achieve our intended outcomes. As prevention specialists, we must plan for our programming to know if we have the resources we need, if our program’s content aligns with our intended outcomes, and what we need to do to effectively implement our identified program.

During the last week of August, I set off for Los Angeles to facilitate a conversation around one kind of planning process: creating a logic model. I was invited by the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to present the core components of logic models to their Rape Prevention Education (RPE) grantees at the pre-conference to the National Sexual Assault Conference. There are over 64 RPE programs in the state of California, and each one has a unique scope of work for their primary prevention activities. While all California RPE grantees are working to evaluate their primary prevention efforts, many have not stepped back from implementation and evaluation to reassess which of their prevention programs are the most effective. In the last few months, RPE grantees have also experienced a reduction in their funding, forcing them to step back and decide which programs (or pieces of programs) should be cut or put on hold as CDPH has made it clear that their expectation is that RPE grantees “do less with less” not do more with less. Given this news, I must admit that I was a little worried about the tone of my training. Would the participants feel as though this was just one more hurdle to jump through or one more public health tool that took time away from their ability to implement? I was totally off the mark.

Over 65 prevention specialists, administrators, and rape crisis center advocates joined me on Tuesdaymorning to talk about the mechanics of logic models. We started by reviewing some content we had previously discussed in a webinar in July, and then outlined how we would move forward. I framed our conversation as an opportunity to learn how to create a tool that would have multiple benefits such as:

  • determining if there were enough internal resources to implement
  • explaining a program to an outside community partner or potential funder
  • identifying steps in our thought process where we make assumptions about our program contributing to a change in our community
  • specifying what short and long term outcomes we are looking to achieve (getting more specific than ending violence against women)
  • paving the way for a 5 year strategic planning process so that in year one and two we work towards our short term outcomes, year three and four we  work towards medium term outcomes, and in year five we end up with our long term goal
  • mapping out where both internal staff and external partners could provide specific kinds and amounts of support to engage multiple key stakeholders.

Once we started talking about how the logic model process really extends beyond the RPE grant to enhancing our work as prevention specialists, participants began to discuss ways in which moving full steam ahead without planning has been detrimental to their work. Planning could have helped them communicate ways to strengthen a program before implementing and designed evaluation tools to accurately reflect changes in their communities.

Now that we’re all sold on creating a logic model – how do you do it?

Here are the key pieces of a model and what you would need to figure out in order to complete the template:

  • Identify the problem: Get specific! It’s not just ending violence against women, it’s the smaller yet crucial steps to get to that shared goal. Maybe it’s increasing bystander behavior, or increasing gender equitable social norms on a high school campus.
  • Assumptions: I assume that people will hear about DV prevention and commit to engaging in the work – but sometimes it takes more than that to get full participation. What assumptions are you making about your program and the people who will participate in it?
  • External factors: Changes in funding, new community partners, the size of your service area, cultural context, socioeconomic context – it all plays a role. What does your community look like (and when was the last time you conducted a community needs assessment)?
  • Resources: Staff, funding, space, professional development, access to materials – what do you HAVE at your finger tips to implement? Separately make a list of what you need. If the “need” list is bigger than the “have” list, you might need to engage in a larger conversation about feasibility.
  • Activities: What kinds of things do you need to do to implement your program and make steps towards your intended outcome.
  • Outputs: How many of those activities did you have? How many people did you talk to? How many meetings with how many community partners? You could think about this section as the widgets.
  • Outcomes: What happened as a result of your planning and your implementation of activities? Did you see any change in knowledge, attitude, beliefs, or behaviors?

Ta-da! You’ve created a logic model!!

To follow the process in action and have a more comprehensive run down of how to create a logic model, check out this previously taped webinar:
and this elearning unit from our colleagues at PreventConnect:

Click here to see the slide from the August 27, 2012 training.

Have you ever created a logic model? What are your favorite resources for planning for prevention programming? Please share your experience and resources with us!

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