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Planning, Evaluation and Public Diplomacy Part 1: Logframes and Beyond

April 10, 2011

A few days ago I suggested that in thinking about the questions of measurement and evaluation in public diplomacy there might be scope for looking at the way the development community deal with these issues.  In a comment Debbie Trent pointed towards the literature on ‘logframes’ or logic frame analysis (LFA).  I’ve been looking at some of the literature and it in turn has triggered some broader reflections on the role of planning and what it means in international affairs.

Firstly, a bit more on logframes.  LFA is a planning tool that has been around since the 1960s and is very widely used across the development community – it exists in different versions in different countries.

The signature of LFA is the frame or matrix itself which looks something like this (based on Gasper 2000)

Hierarchy of objectives Performance indicators Data sources Assumptions and risks
Goal – longer term impact      
Purpose – short term impact      
Outputs – deliverables      
Activities – work package for outputs      

The vertical dimension sets out a means-end chain showing how the elements of a project relate to each other.  The purpose is usually the direct objective of the project  while the outputs are the components of the project.  These diagrams can have more rows.  The horizontal dimension sets out how we can tell if the project if working, where the data to tell this will come from and the assumptions that we have to be true for the objectives to be met.

The matrix is intended to be the end point of a planning process that  involves  a systematic analysis of the existing situation and conversations with collaborators to ensure a common understanding of the problem.  The difficulty is that the relationship between the logframe and the planning process is sometimes rather looser that it should be  Gasper identifies four problems

  1. Logic-less frame -an  existing project is presented in matrix without any real analysis
  2. Jamming – an oversimplified version of the project is used so it will fit the matrix.
  3. Lack-frame – too much left out
  4. Lock-frame – failure to update the frame as the project develops and new issues become apparent.

This frustration has led to a search for alternatives for instance Davies (2008) advocacy of a ‘social frame’ that focuses on the changes in relationships that must occur for a project to be successful.  In the UK development community the emphasis on ‘theories of change’ seems to be aimed precisely at getting back to the process of research, communication and learning, that is supposed to underpin the matrix.

The basic thrust of thinking in the development community is that monitoring and evaluation always takes place in relation to what you are trying to do. This places a heavier burden on developing feasible and systematically worked through plans.  Of course this doesn’t always happen in the development community any more than it does in public diplomacy but I think that making the effort to lay out what the theory of influence that underpins any activity is a necessity for any PD activity.  This raises the question to what extent to PD organizations actually make use of systematic planning tools in developing their activities.

In the second part of this series I’m going to make some comments about the difficult history of planning in diplomacy.

Notes on reading

The article by Gasper and the responses to it (h/t do Debbie Trent for the references)  give some insight into the origins of the logframe approach

Gasper, Des. “Evaluating the ‘Logical Framework Approach’ Towards Learning-Oriented Development Evaluation.” Public Administration and Development, Vol. 20, No. 1 (2000): 17-28;

Bell, Simon. “Logical Frameworks, Aristotle and Soft Systems: A Note on the Origins, Values and Uses of Logical Frameworks, in Reply to Gasper.” Public Administration and Development, Vol. 20, No. 1 (2000): 29-31.

Smith, Peter. “A Comment on the Limitations of the Logical Framework Method, in reply to Gasper, and to Bell.” Public Administration and Development, Vol. 20, No. 3 (2000): 439-441.

This is a comprehensive discussion of how to develop a logic frame including interaction with stakeholders and how decide which are the important assumptions.  This is part of a set of guides on project planning.

AusAid (2005), The Logical Framework Approach, AusGuideline 3.3 (Canberra: AusAid)

Davies, Rick (2008), ‘The Social Framework as an Alternative to the Logical Framework’ available here argues for rethinking the logic framework in social terms.

Keystone (2009), Developing a Theory of Change (London: Keystone Accountability).  This is part of a series of guides on Impact Planning, Assessment and Learning

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One comment

  1. […] me the influence chain can exist in three forms. Firstly, it’s the ‘theory of change’ – possibly implicit that the decision-makers and planners have. In pure research terms actually […]



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