Designing the project’s intervention logic

The project logic column of the logframeThis means filling out the first column of the logical framework. Here you have two options: you can start by formulating a clear purpose for the project. This is the main reason why you’re undertaking the project in the first place.

Often you’ll find that you have a clearer view of what you want to do (the activities) than what exactly you’ll end up with. So a second approach is first to write down what activities you have in mind in the bottom cell of the first column. Then you describe what these activities amount to, in other words what the tangible outputs or results are of your activities.

Together, your outputs/results lead to the definition of a single purpose for your project. This purpose solves the main problem. Its effects are immediate from the moment the purpose has been achieved. But there may be effects on a longer term, and often on a larger scale. After a while, your project may have an impact on more people and more problems than when you finished your work. These realisations are described in the top cell, and are called the goals of your project.


1. Improved hygiene of all family members
2. Improved social relations
1. Bathroom is renovated in 3 months
1.1 New plumbing is installed
1.2 New bath, shower and washing basins are installed
1.3 New bathroom tiles on the walls and on the floor
1.1.1 Remove old pipes and drains
1.1.2 Install new pipes
1.2.1 Choose new bath, shower, shower curtain and washing basins with design expert (wife)
1.2.2 Install bath, shower and washing basins
1.3.1 Remove old tiles
1.3.2 Tile walls
1.3.3 Tile floor
1.3.4 Hang up shower curtain


To identify the vertical logic of more complicated projects, you should use a methodology to identify the stakeholders and their needs, formulate problems and solutions, order them and agree on objectives and a planning. Take a look at the Logical Framework Approach or Results Based Management for more information.

Output, outcome and impact


The logical framework allows you (and stimulates you) to see beyond the direct results (or outputs) of your activities. To achieve your project’s central objective, you use resources and do activities that produce tangible results or outputs. The main objective or purpose of your project is the outcome that you expect after all your efforts. But your project may lead to other outcomes, some of which you may have expected, but other you haven’t foreseen. These outcomes may be positive or negative.

The relation between resources, activities, outputs, purpose and impact

For instance you can do a project with the purpose of providing water to the population of a village. You organise people and mobilise resources to build (activities and means) a water storage basin (output). As you expected, the village now has year-round access to water (outcome). Other expected outcomes may be that a lower percentage of livestock dies, so people also have a higher income. An unexpected outcome may be that neighbouring villages are attracted to this water source, which may lead to competition and conflicts.

While the outputs are visible as soon as the activities that created them are finished, outcomes generally come along when the project is well underway and heading towards the end, or even after the project has been completed. On a longer term, and a wider scale, the project can have a wider impact on the local society. Again, such an impact can be both expected or unexpected, and both positive or negative.

To continue with the water basin example: the easy access to water may free the women of the village from walking long distances to water holes. This way they could have more time for other activities and raise more income for their families. With more income, children can go to school, there is money to pay doctors or buy medicines, or the family can invest in better housing. In this case, improving access to water has a positive impact on education levels, health and housing conditions.

The goal(s)

Project logic - goals sectionA goal is an overall objective – generally a problem that is situated on the level of the (local) society as a whole – that the project contributes to. Achieving the project’s purpose won’t be enough to solve this problem. Many other things need to be addressed and solved before this goal will be achieved, but your project makes its own contribution.

The goal serves as a point of reference or a framework for your project. This is important to verify that your project serves the larger good and benefits the society as a whole. You should think about how your project relates to the efforts of others: local and national authorities, other NGOs, the local civil society, religious institutions, local and international businesses and other actors. Are you working with the forces of change, or against them?

When you formulate your goals, make sure that they are not too ambitious, too broad or ‘too far away’ from your project. When your project’s purpose is to provide drinking water in a certain region, the link with the goal of ‘reducing the negative effects of globalisation’ may be too far fetched. ‘Improving people’s health’ in that same region or in that country is a more realistic goal. The idea is that your project makes a significant contribution to that goal.

For international development, an important tool for the alignment of assistance are the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers that are developed by national governments. These documents explain the government’s development strategy, but also provide a framework for donors and international development actors to align their projects with the national policy and with other actors.

Because the goals are bigger than the scope of the project, they are also outside the control of the project. Their achievement doesn’t depend entirely on your project or the organisations that are involved.

The purpose

Project logic - the purpose(s)The purpose is the change that you expect in the target group’s situation at the end of the project. It is the reason why your project was developed in the first place.

The scope of the project is defined by the purpose: who will benefit (how many people, what gender, age, social group); what is the time-frame; what is the area of intervention. Again, the relation between the purpose and the goal(s) is important: when the purpose is realised it should make an real contribution to achieving the goal. On the other hand, the purpose has to be realistic in view of the limitations of the project and of its participants (and their means), and in view of the context (risks, assumptions)

Generally, it is said that a project should only have one purpose, but in some cases projects can be so complex that they involve multiple purposes. In that case it is generally a good idea to split the project up in different individual projects, each with its own purpose.

A purpose (like a goal) is formulated like a state that is achieved, for instance: 'All children in the Tizandat district aged between 6 and 15 have access to basic education before 2015'.

When you formulate the purpose, make sure that it is realistic and achievable. Together, the outputs of the project should reasonably lead to the realisation of the purpose.

The outputs

Project logic - outputsOutputs are tangible results created as a consequence of the project’s activities. Together, the outputs lead to the achievement of the project’s main purpose. The purpose is the situation you hope to achieve when the project is finished. The outputs are goods, services and so on that you want to create over the course of the project. As such, the outputs are – in principle – completely under your control.

At this level, the project logic is the strongest: you invest means (inputs) to do the activities, and the activities will lead to concrete outputs. There is a direct cause and effect: you do the activity (or you go through a process that combines different activities) and you get the output. This also means that you are fully responsible for achieving the outputs.

Outputs are formulated like a state that is achieved, not like an activity. For instance: 'All elementary schools in the Tizandat district are rehabilitated by 2013'.

If you write ‘Reconstruction of school buildings in the Tizandat district’, you formulate it as an activity, the act of reconstructing. Rather, you want to express that by the end of the project this action is finished and that the buildings are complete and shiny and new.

It is important to verify whether all outputs necessary to achieve the purpose have been identified. On the other hand, you should also refrain from adding outputs that may be nice, but have no direct link with the purpose. Often during the process of formulating the project with local partners and stakeholders, people have the tendency to say ‘while we’re at it, can’t we also include this or that nice idea’. They want to make good use of the(unique) opportunity that a donor or partner wants to do something in their area, and try to insert additional small projects.

Make sure the outputs that you’ve identified can be achieved with the resources at your disposal (or the means that you hope to achieve through a donor or other financers).

The activities

Project logic - activitiesAn activity is an action that transforms inputs (labour, knowledge, equipment, raw materials, time) into planned outputs within a specified period of time.

Sometimes, one activity is sufficient to get the desired outputs, but often you have to go through a series of activities. When you have to go through the same series of activities or tasks every time you want to get an output, you can define them as a process. In the logframe, each output has one or more activities/processes.

Activities have to be planned over time, to make sure all the outputs are obtained in the course of the project. Some activities can’t start before others, because they need the outputs that the previous activities produce. This means that when the first activity has a delay (started too late or takes more time than planned), the second one will also be delayed. This can cause a cascading effect and in the end the outputs aren’t realised within the project’s duration.

In other cases, activities aren’t dependent of each other, but planning too many activities at the same moment can create an overload for the project team. In such a case, activities will have to be postponed, but this means that the project’s planning goes out of the window and again by the end of the project you may find that not all the outputs have been realised.

Making a good planning also means that you make sure every activity is alotted the necessary time.

When establishing your logframe, make sure that all the key activities that are needed to obtain an output are listed, but don’t loose yourself in listing every little thing you have to do. For instance, routine administrative tasks are normally not included in the logframe. Contrary to outputs, purposes and goals, activities are formulated as an action: you do something.