Is a theory of change different to a logic model? Depends

Evaluation purists: It’s only a Logic Model if it comes from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation region of Michigan, otherwise it’s just sparkling boxes and arrows.


“A program theory is an explicit theory or model of how an intervention contributes to a set of specific outcomes through a series of intermediate results. The theory needs to include an explanation of how the program’s activities contribute to the results, not simply a list of activities followed by the results, with no explanation of how these are linked, apart from a mysterious arrow.” (Funnell & Rogers, 2011, p. 31)

“A program theory is usually displayed in a diagram called a logic model.” (Funnell & Rogers, 2011, p. 32)

“… sometimes the terms logic model and theory of change have been distinguished in particular ways that are different to the ways we are using the terms here. For example HelΓ©ne Clark, from ActKnowledge, and Andrea Anderson, from the Aspen Institute Roundtable on Community Change, who employ program theory extensively, have used these terms to make the distinction between ways of representing program theory that we have labeled pipeline logic models and outcomes chain logic models (Clark and Anderson, 2004). Mhairi Mackenzie and Avril Blamey (2005) have used theories of change to refer specifically to the type of logic model advocated by the Aspen Institute […]. The key message here is to define your terms carefully and ask others to do so as well. It cannot be assumed that you mean the same thing when you use the same term or that you mean something different when you use a different term.” (Funnell & Rogers, 2011, p. 26)

Funnell, S. C., & Rogers, P. J. (2011). Purposeful Program Theory: Effective Use of Theories of Change and Logic Models. Jossey-Bass.

Visualising programme theories

Lovely collection of examples of the folllowing ways of visualising a programme theory:

  1. Logic model
  2. Logical framework
  3. Theory of change
  4. Context-mechanism-outcome configuration
  5. Causal loop diagram
  6. Stock and flow diagram
  7. Concept map
  8. Network map
  9. Path model
  10. Nested/Hybrid model

Also includes links to tools for reasoning about the representations (where they have some genre of formal semantics).



Lemire, S., Porowski, A., & Mumma, K. (2023). How We Model Matters: Visualizing Program Theories. Abt Associates.