Sounding off on logframes

Arlen Cordero, who works with the EU humanitarian aid department’s Central America office, visits a project and talks to beneficiaries to ensure assistance reaches those who need it. Photo by: Silvio Balladares / ECHO / CC BY-ND

The logical framework — or “logframe” — approach to planning, monitoring and evaluating development programs is gaining traction within the international development community, Devex correspondent Gabriella Jóźwiak wrote last week.

Is it helping to improve value-for-money, though, or a symptom of an industry more interested in checking boxes than lasting change? Just how should logframes be used in international development?

Jóźwiak quoted Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition Chair Jay Naidoo, who spoke about this year’s ongoing response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

“We have not invested in health systems because we want projects and deliverables,” he said. “We want logframe that measure how many lives have been saved. We’re seeing increased political instability because some wise guys have decided the focus of global health has to be on these logframes.”

The story sparked a response from several Devex readers.

Marcia A Phillips, who’s been working with logframes since 1994 for both funding and implementing agencies, says it’s a “very useful and versatile tool” to plan, monitor and report projects and “keep all stakeholders on the same page.”

Logframe helps “impact-oriented” planning and ignoring it will waste resources, Prabin Barua, a management and development consultant and trainer in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

“They help in thinking through objectives, strategies, activities, budgetary implications and who will do the work and when,” said Anita Anand. “Log frames, like many other development tools, are just that. [W]e shouldn't make too much or too little of them.”

Other readers shared that sentiment.

“It is only a tool that encapsulates causal relationships and interrelationships of inputs/process/outputs/outcomes and should not be solely relied on as an instrument to influence the success of any program or project,” said Connie Hina, an expert in project evaluation. “This must be supported with corresponding work and financial plans, appropriate monitoring tools, which need to be reviewed regularly to reflect any variations or changes in the internal and external environmental factors in the process of program implementation.”

Logframes need to be well-designed if a project is to succeed, though — and that may not be easy.

“I have been a user of this tool and it took me years to master on how to use this tool properly and so far the success rate of the project where I used logframe is more than 98 [percent],” Hina said..

Logframes are useful but only if it’s updated to reflect evolving conditions throughout the lifecycle of a project, a reader called Lili Hidalgo suggested.

“Once approved for funding and implementation however, its utility is undermined where particular users regard the logframe as cast in stone on top of an imprimatur. Considering project activities operate in active and dynamic environments, the project logframe is supposed to be updated – based on monitoring activities that inform on unanticipated negative effects/risks/ threats/ effects of implementation requiring timely/efficient/effective /appropriate/mitigating interventions & measures vis-à-vis the approved project plan,” she said. “In general, project logframes and their monitoring activities hardly reflect these maturation effects on the approved project plan and inevitably at the end of the day, projects are regarded not to have attained their purposes or goals at all.”

What do you think about logframe? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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    Rolf Rosenkranz

    Rolf Rosenkranz oversees a talented team of in-house journalists, correspondents and guest contributors located around the globe. Since joining Devex in early 2008, Rolf has been instrumental in growing its fledgling news operation into the leading online source for global development news and analysis. Previously, Rolf was managing editor at Inside Health Policy, a subscription-based news service in Washington. He has reported from Africa for the Johannesburg-based Star and its publisher, Independent News & Media, as well as the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, a German daily.