About This Series
Publication Date: January 2010
What Are Performance Measurement and Program Evaluation?
What Are the Basic Steps?
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What Are the Basic Steps?

Develop a Program Planning Model

A planning model is a graphic representation that clearly identifies the logical relationships between program conditions, inputs, activities, outcomes, and impacts. Planning models are beneficial because they—

  • Identify program goals, objectives, activities, desired outcomes, and impacts.
  • Clarify assumptions about and relationships between program efforts and expected results.
  • Help specify what to measure through evaluation.
  • Guide assessment of underlying assumptions.
  • Support the development of effective proposals.

Discussed below are—

Knowing the Elements of a Planning Model

Exhibit 4 shows the elements of a planning model, which visually displays day-to-day program activities and how they link to the outcomes the program is working to achieve. The process of creating planning models allows you to think systematically about what outcomes you hope to achieve and how you plan to achieve them. Exhibit 4 also illustrates the conditions that your program will address through the services you provide, the resources available for carrying out program activities as well as the activities or services your program provides, intended or unintended outcomes, and the impacts of your program. Each step of the planning model provides a point of reference against which you can compare your program’s progress toward achieving its desired outcomes and impact.

Exhibit 4: Elements of a Planning Model

A planning model can guide all types of evaluations and help you specify the performance measure to be collected. For process evaluations, the planning model identifies your expectations of how the program should work so that you can see whether your program has derailed or is on track. For outcome/impact evaluations, the planning model displays how and for whom certain services are expected to create change.

Creating and Using a Program Planning Model

As displayed above, planning models are constructed left to right and can include arrows that show temporal sequence. You can make a planning model for your program by following the steps in exhibit 5.

Exhibit 5
Steps For Creating a Program Planning Model
Create a table with seven columns and follow the steps below:

Step 1: List all the background factors or people you think may influence the relationship between your program activities and goals in column 1. For example, lack of knowledge about the rights and needs of trafficking victims is a background factor.

Step 2: List program inputs in column 2. For example, the amount of funds that will go toward increasing the knowledge of the rights and needs of trafficking victims is an input.

Step 3: List program activities in column 3. For example, training law enforcement officers on the rights and needs of trafficking victims is an activity.

Step 4: List program outputs in column 4. For example, the number of law enforcement officers trained on the rights and needs of trafficking victims is an output.

Steps 5 and 6: List all outcomes occurring during or after your program activities that could affect how or whether you accomplish your program goals in columns 5 and 6. For example, a better understanding of human trafficking is an immediate outcome and a better understanding of how to identify trafficking victims is an intermediate outcome.

Step 7: List program impacts in column 7. Listing program goals helps you see the overall effects of your inputs as well as the changes resulting from them. For example, one goal might be to increase law enforcement’s ability to refer trafficking victims to appropriate services. Start with short-term goals because it is often difficult to measure and document long-term goals.

One row of a sample planning model is shown in exhibit 6. A sample planning model template is presented in appendix C (PDF 19.7 KB).

Exhibit 6
Sample Program Planning Model
Step 1 Step 2 Step 3 Step 4 Step 5 Step 6 Step 7
Conditions Inputs Activities Outputs Immediate
Lack of knowledge about the rights and needs of trafficking victims Training funds Law enforcement training Twelve law enforcement officers trained Better understanding of human trafficking Better understanding of how to identify victims of trafficking Increased ability to refer victims to appropriate services

After you have identified the information for each element of your planning model, you should be able to explain how each element leads to the next. These connections show how you expect change to occur as a result of your program. (If I do step 3, I can expect steps 4 and 5 to happen, which will cause step 6 to occur.)

There is more than one way to build a planning model. Your methods will depend on the needs of your program and its participants. Overall, consider the following:

  • What services and activities does your program provide?
  • Who are its participants? Whom will it influence?
  • How will your program activities lead to the expected outcomes?

Tips To Remember!

  • The planning model is only a tool. There is no single right way to develop a planning model.
  • Creating the planning model should be an interactive, dynamic process.
  • Keep the model to one page, if possible.
  • Identify and then organize the elements of your planning model:
    • Use boxes.
    • Group sequentially.
    • Add arrows to show relationships.
    • Consider the element of time.
    • Start at any point along the model—try beginning with outcomes.