By Consultant, Ken Fullerton
Are the programs logics that you see actually logical?
On Wednesday 11 April 2018, ARTD Partner Andrew Hawkins, delivered a free seminar in Sydney organised by the Australasian Evaluation Society (AES), which was attended by approximately 50 people.
Hawkins first briefly introduced his subject. His generalist definition of a program logic is “A one-page diagram or model of the important components of an intervention and how they work together to deliver outcomes.”
He then gave attendees three example program logics to use as references in their discussions of two key questions.
Question 1: What makes program logics logical?
Question 2: What do the arrows mean in a program logic?
Later, Hawkins gave an overview of his own approach to program logic. He argued that a ‘configurationalist’ understanding of causality would be more useful than the ‘successonist’ understanding deployed in many program logics. His point was that effective programs are better thought of as a ‘causal package’ with certain assumptions, like a recipe, rather than a linear ‘causal chain’ where one element in the program logic causes the next one.
Hawkins believes a program is better thought of as a proposition or argument that a course of action will be sufficient to bring about a desired result, rather than a theory about change or a theory about action. He said that while theory was very important for providing reasons, justifications or ‘warrants’ for elements of the program design (and for the program as a whole), he thinks it is too much for a program logic diagram to display this theory.
Instead, he proposed focusing on the conditions that program activities needed to achieve that, together, would be enough to enable an intended outcome to be achieved. He argued that this approach enables critical thinking (that can support realistic design) and evaluations focused on measuring outcomes a program is sufficient for achieving its objectives. It can also support the program’s argument or business case.