“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms.”[1]

 

As others have written before, logical framework approaches (LFAs) – aka, logframes – are often an annoyance. They are something that the ‘donor’ wants, and they serve as a tick-the-box exercise for managers in charge of development projects.

 

Of course, the requirement to demonstrate performance is – and should be – a significant part of any project. The fact that development actors are using tax money or direct donations should always involve a high level of accountability and transparency.

 

In addition to that, and potentially even more important, is the accountability to those groups that are targeted by any project – the stakeholders and beneficiaries of the project.

 

In the conclusion of their paper, ‘The Use and Abuse of the Logical Framework Approach’, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) put it together well:

Development organisations are torn between increasing levels of stakeholder participation and accountability and ever greater requirements to demonstrate that they have performed according to expectations and to provide evidence of impact. The LFA, while deeply flawed, seems to provide some middle ground, as it is both a component of results-based management and also allows scope for intensive stakeholder participation, at least at the planning stage. [2]

 

Indeed, stakeholders have rights, and one of those is and should be that organisations are accountable to them. Organisations should not ‘hope to do good’ but know that their project goals are going to be of benefit to the stakeholders.

 

This is part of the most important principle of ‘do no harm’. How will organisations know if they are doing harm, if they do not know the situation before, during, and after their interventions? Harm can be very obvious – such as an increase in violence. But it can also be much more hidden – like in cases where a necessary change is hampered or halted altogether.

 

Having said all that, it is absolutely important to note that there is a trend in recent years towards

 

But while gaps like these need to be filled through humanitarian aid efforts, and results need to be known, other more systematic – less ‘sexy’ – topics are equally important.

Unfortunately, projects with results that do not easily fit into a numerical scheme are seen as ‘less good’ or ‘less valuable’ nowadays.

 

Here, Hans Rosling made a valid point:

‘The world cannot be understood without numbers. And it cannot be understood through numbers alone.’

 

And this is exactly the approach that needs to be considered when developing programme logic and, with it, a logframe.

 

Wherever possible and realistic, numbers should be used for accountability. For example, counting the number of children who used to be underweight and now are not is a number that says something and clearly illustrates the impact of the project.

 

HOWEVER, people should be aware of the fact that there are cases where numbers are not enough to explain the situation, and educated decisions should be made accordingly.

 

A great example is the development of a new government policy. Of course, it’s possible to simply count the policy when it is finalised. The target is ‘1’, and one can easily measure whether or not this target has been achieved. But what does that number really say? Does it say if it is a good policy? No. Does it highlight whether or not there was an inclusive process where less privileged groups had a chance to voice their opinion? No. Does it say if the policy is adequate in terms of everything it was supposed to be? No.

 

This means that a logframe can and should have qualitative, descriptive indicators where they make sense, and where a number is just not enough to provide an understanding of the world.

 

Back in early 2000, stakeholder participation was only possible during the development of a new intervention project and its associated logframe. Now, in 2020, technology enables participation on many levels. Real-time data collection allows for accountability to the affected people via the internet (in areas where such services are easily available), or through project staff (as long as the efforts are made). Communities can be part of the accountability checks by means of citizen monitors, who can hold organisations accountable and observe their endeavours (again, through real-time visual dashboards, if possible).

 

All in all, logframes are the worst, except for all the other options.

 

Need a comprehensive but simple logframe for your organization? Use our free, online logical framework builder: Logframe Lab

 

[1] Supposedly Churchill

[2] http://pdf2.hegoa.efaber.net/entry/content/909/the_use_and_abuse_SIDA.pdf, page 18