Logframe toolkit Part 1 – commentary
The logframe is a four-by-four matrix used for project planning. This toolkit demonstrates its application to development projects.
The logframe matrix is produced through a process known as Logical Framework Analysis, also known as LFA. This has been described as a ‘tool for thinking’ about projects. It is a methodology for analysing the context of a proposed project intervention, formulating objectives and defining criteria that can be used to measure its impact.
The results of this analysis are summarised in the matrix.
The first part of this toolkit explains the underlying ideas of Logical Framework Analysis as a project planning tool. Projects are sets of actions that aim to produce changes in a defined target situation.
Projects are time-bounded interventions, that is, the actions of a project last only for a certain time, often called the project implementation period.
The aim of the project is to produce qualitative and quantitative changes in the target situation. These are defined in the project objectives and, if the project is successful, should be discernable at the end of the project.
Logical Framework Analysis starts out from the idea that the actions of the project will produce changes that can be predicted, observed and, at least to a certain extent, measured. However, a development project aims to produce changes in a target situation that is outside its direct control. The project cannot achieve all the changes it aims for directly, but must try to act as a catalyst for change.
One way it can do this is by helping to increase the capacity of people and institutions to achieve the development objectives. For example, by providing infrastructure, training, access to credit and support for institution building.
This increased capacity will enable local people and institutions to change their patterns of behaviour in ways that lead to the achievement of the development objectives. For example, by providing improved services, starting new businesses, or adopting new technologies.
These changes will contribute to improved conditions in the project target area.
In Logical Framework Analysis, this sequence of cause and effect relations is called the project hypothesis.
It is often described using the words ‘if’ and ‘then’. That is, ‘if’ the project takes certain actions, ‘then’ this will set in train a sequence of changes leading to the achievement of the development goal.
The project hypothesis is described in the logframe matrix in a hierarchy of project objectives. The project activities are shown in the bottom row, these lead upwards to the achievement of project outputs, then to the project objective or project purpose and finally to the wider development goal of the project.
The hierarchy of project objectives is shown in the left-hand column of the logframe matrix. Together these form a concise narrative summary of what the project intends to do and what it hopes to achieve. This is the first column to be filled in in the matrix.
The assumptions column, on the far right, is normally the second column to be filled in. This describes features of the external environment, which are outside the direct control of the project, but considered to be important for its success. For example, the assumptions can refer to the political and economic conditions in the project area, or the attitudes taken towards the project by people not directly involved in it.
The indicators column answers two questions: ‘How do we know that the project is successful?’ And ‘How can we show other people that the project is a success?’ It lists changes in the target situation that can be measured or observed to show progress towards the project objectives.
Finally, the means of verification column shows how the indicators will be measured. When drawing up the matrix, the indicators and means of verification columns are considered together and are the final columns to be filled in.
Now let’s look more closely at the rows of the project matrix. These provide a summary of the changes brought about by the project over time. Note that by convention time in the logframe matrix flows upwards.
The bottom two rows describe the situation during the implementation of the project.
The second from top row describes the situation it is hoped to achieve at the end of the project.
The top row describes longer term changes, corresponding to the development goals the project is intended to contribute towards.
The rows also describe the changing relation between the project and its target population during and after the implementation of the project. The activities row describes the actions taken directly by the project. The project is fully in control here. An example of an activity could be to provide training courses.
The outputs row describes changes achieved by the project. However, these changes also depend on the participation of the people and individuals that make up its target population. For example, for people to become better trained they have to attend the training courses run by the project and learn from them. So the project has slightly less control over outcomes at this level.
The purpose row describes change achieved by people and institutions with the help of the project. For example, if people have been trained by the project, only they can put their training into practice. The project cannot do this for them.
Finally the wider goal indicates changes in the wider social, economic or environmental situation that the project contributes to. These changes are outside the direct control of both that project and its target population.
Thus the control of the project over what happens decreases from top to bottom of the logframe matrix.
Now let’s look at the matrix as a whole. Together the columns and rows provide a description of the project in the context of the wider situation in which it acts.
The nine boxes in the bottom left-hand corner show what is ‘internal’ to the project, that is, aspects of the situation which are, at least to some extent, within the control of the project.
The seven boxes along the upper- and right-hand edges of the logframe describe aspects which are ‘external’ to the project and outside its control.
To recap, the right-hand column shows aspects of the situation which affect the implementation of the project, which the project cannot, or chooses not to influence directly. For example, the actions of stakeholders not directly involved in the project, but who are none the less, in a position to affect its outcome. The top row shows longer-term changes in the wider environment, which the project is intended to contribute towards.
We can get a more complete picture of the project hypothesis by incorporating the assumptions column into the ‘if–then’ cause and affect logic of the matrix. This full version of the project hypothesis is often referred to as the ‘if–and–then’ logic of the matrix.
Thus ‘if’ the project carries out its activities as planned, ‘and’ the assumptions relevant at this level of the project hypothesis are fulfilled, ‘then’ the project outputs will be achieved. And so on. This formulation makes it clear the validity of the project hypothesis depends also on the validity of its assumptions about conditions in the external environment.
The final step in the project hypothesis is: ‘if’ the project achieves its purpose, ‘and’ the assumptions relevant at this level of the project hypothesis are fulfilled, ‘then’ progress will be made towards achievement of the wider development goals.