The origin of the logframe
The origin of the logical framework or logframe is usually credited to the report “Project Evaluation and the Project Appraisal Reporting System” published in July 1970. The report was commissioned by USAID and written by Rosenberg, Posner, and Hanley of Fry Consultants. A scan of a used copy of the report is still available for download from the USAID website: Vol 1, summary, Vol 2 Findings, Vol 3 Implementation. The report is typed, not written on a word processor, as it was published eleven years before the first IBM personal computer was available. Logframes do not depend on computers and spreadsheets.
USAID wanted to evaluate and compare the results of work they were funding in different parts of the world, and had proposed a Project Appraisal Report (PAR) system. The PAR system was widely disliked in the field and not functioning. The consultant team found that reporting varied so much that any inter-regional comparison would be difficult, if not impossible. Even more important they found that the available reporting was based on resources used and activities undertaken, and made little or no mention of any results, nor of the reasons why projects had been funded and implemented. In the middle of the inside front cover of the final report, they wrote a single sentence, using the largest size font available on the electric typewriter:
“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”
This is a boldly critical opening statement for a major report to USAID – it is a paraphrase (and not actually a quote) from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s adventures in Wonderland”.
The consultant team proposed a results-based reporting format, shown above, to be used by all projects, field tested a prototype in one region, and then refined it and applied it elsewhere. Although the terminology has changed a little, the format they proposed is the log frame, with an additional column for what would today be called the cause-effect links of a theory of change of the project (they call it “Linkage”). The original layout does not include the source of information for indicators.
In part 1 of the report, TITLE (link1 above), the team note, page II-2,
“Our operating assumption was that, for each mission visited, there was a mission-useful evaluation process that predated the PAR requirement and with which PAR preparation was to at least some extent redundant. […]
Contrary to our operating assumption, our finding was that prior to imposition of the PAR requirement there was no systematic evaluation process in place at any mission we visited. ［…] in particular, the issue of project significance was very rarely raised in an actionable framework – that is, raised in such a way as to imply appropriate replanning activities or actions.”
“Significance” would now be called “relevance” in the OECD DAC guidelines.
What is the logframe for ?
The prototype log frame copied above is figure 4-1 on page IV-4 of the introduction section of the Fry consulting report. Nearly 50 years later, with only a few small changes to the terminology, it remains what it always has been: a one-page summary that explains why the intervention is being undertaken, why we think that it will produce the desired results, how we will know the results that have been achieved, and the results chain from inputs through to (what is now called) impacts.
The log frame is not and never has been a method in itself; it is a useful way to summarise an intervention on a single sheet. The log frame is not the planning process, but it is a way to summarise clearly and logically the results of the planning process before starting work, and then as the intervention proceeds it needs to be updated to match reality and include the intermediate and final results. The log frame is not reality, it is a summary of what has been planned and achieved. The information in the logframe is not fixed, it is a summary of a changing situation, so requires updating to keep it relevant. For example, once the planning has been done by a suitable planning process involving project partners (a process that generally should be inclusive, gender sensitive, non-discriminatory, etc) the results can be transferred from the planning documents to the log frame, as a convenient way to summarise. Part of the confusion comes from the European commission developing a planning methodology, based on problem tree analysis, and calling it the log frame approach or LFA. The LFA is the methodology, the log frame is the single sheet summary once the planning is complete. All the information included on the logframe is copied there from other documents, such as the indicator definition document, the planning documents, the list of proposed activities, etc, the logframe is not an original source document.
The key limitation of the logframe is that it can only be used in situations where there is repeatable linear cause and effect. For working in the complex domain (see Cynefin framework) the assumption of linear cause and effect is false and other methods should be used.