SROI and Logic Models

Posted 18th June 2013

SROI and Logic Models


From time to time we are asked about the relationship between the logic model or log frame approach, for example as also used in approaches like Results Based Accountability, and SROI. I have heard people saying they prefer one approach to the other, or that SROI should make more use of logic models or logic models should make more use of SROI.

From my perspective SROI uses logic models as part of applying the principle of understanding change and so I wondered why there were these different perspectives.

The more I looked at the relationship, the more I realised that, though on the face of it the two approaches share similar thinking, they start from completely different perspectives before then going on to use similar language.

The issue is that logic models start with the organisation’s objective and then work out how, or not, the activities logically lead to that objective. This is an excellent approach to improving the management of an organisation, of aligning activities with objectives. Thinking this through could mean having to change activities or change objectives or both. But it will add clarity and improve management.

SROI starts from completely the other end and asks what happens as a result of the activities. How do these activities lead to change. This is an accountability framework since it seeks to identify all material changes that result from an activity, positive and negative and for all stakeholders affected.

You would certainly hope that the objectives would show up as part of this analysis but you would also expect other changes to be highlighted as well. SROI argues that the organisation should be accountable for these changes if they are material (at least starting with the perspective of those affected). This also improves management, helps targeting, service design, classification and understanding of stakeholders experiences and views.

So the two approaches share a need to develop an understanding of the relationship between activities and change, informed by stakeholders, supported where possible by research and experience. SROI requires the causality to be tested as well. This is also true of some applications of the logic model but not all. Those approaches that  describe a sequence from outputs to outcomes to longer term impact are less likely to test causality of impacts. Those that describe impact as being outcomes less what would have happened anyway will have to test for causality.

But they differ in that SROI analysis results in several outcomes, positive and negative and needs a judgment on where in a chain of outcomes, as one thing leads to another, the value being created or destroyed should be accounted for and managed. In the logic model approach the decision on how far to go is made when setting objectives and this gives rise to the idea of a final outcome, whereas in fact outcomes tend to lead to other outcomes ad infinitum.

Secondly SROI encourages the classification of stakeholders not, for example, by the group targeted in the objectives but by groups of people experiencing specific but material outcomes as these arise from the analysis.

Thirdly SROI needs a process to help determine which of the various logic models that emerge should the organisations be accountable for and therefore manag ; perhaps not all of them. A process called determining materiality. Valuation, from the stakeholders’ perspective, is important as it helps determine materiality, allowing the relative importance of different outcomes to be compared. Organisations that manage against objectives have determined what is material and so don’t need this process and don’t need to compare relative importance of different outcomes.

All this means is that accountability is more complex than managing objectives and so naturally enough a reasonable first step for many organisations is to manage objectives and gain clarity on how activities lead to outcomes.

However moving from this to becoming more accountable is not a simple progression. It means changing the logic from how do we achieve our objective to what happens in pursuit of our objective, changing from thinking backwards from objectives to forwards from activities.

And that’s less easy.