By Natalie Losada
“A problem well stated is a problem half solved.”Charles Kettering
Our speaker at this iJOBS event on May 10th was not only a down-to-earth, insightful leader, but he is also a founder of the STEM Advocacy Institute (SAi), a place where you can perfect your Logic Model for your project. By the end of this article, you’ll understand the Logic Model, how to apply the Model, and where you can practice the Model.
- The Logic Model is defined as a theory of change visually linking the connections between the problem, solution, activities, outputs, outcomes, and the intended impact desired by a given program. It is something that can help you properly plan and understand your projects and life goals. A schematic outline to help you develop your logic model is shown below.
Dr. Fanuel Muindi told the attendees to take screenshot of this model outline and save it, because it should be used time and time again. When filling out this model template, you need to spend just as much time, if not more time, on shaping and defining the “Problem Space” as you will eventually spend on the “Solution Space.” Most people don’t spend nearly enough time on this step, and then the solution becomes more difficult to manage or does not address the problem in its entirety. For example, if you want to be a in Medical Communications in a big pharmaceutical company, is that the “Problem”? Dr. Muindi answered that the real problem is that you want to communicate science to the public. Problems and goals should address deeper values and need to be thought out carefully. You should anticipate framing the problem, reframing it, pitching it to someone, and reframing it. If your search for the problem looks like the picture below, that’s totally normal. Dr. Muindi’s path was not a straight and narrow path, but it’s a path he chose that gave him opportunities for the most learning. Ultimately, his learning experiences helped him understand the problem space.
The next step is to develop the “Solution Space” or the “how” stage. If you’ve written a grant or research proposal for your thesis, this is where you explain any instruments, collaborators, or materials you’ll need. The Logic Model goes one step further and includes the activities you’ll need to complete to accomplish your goal. Dr. Muindi mentioned that if he enjoys the activities listed in his Logic Model, he knows that the goal is a great fit for him and he’ll stay motivated every step of the way. Similar to grants proposals, you’ll also need to also explain the “so what?”, which in the Logic Model involves two categories. The “Outputs” measure productivity and “Outcomes” are changes taking place as a result of your actions. For example, your output can be a published book and the outcome can be that people read it and are impacted by it! This could be extended to a paper published during your PhD where your outcome could be that the paper is heavily cited and positively influences your field. One step that might get overlooked without using the Logic Model is gaging your “Major Assumptions.” These are things that could put you at a disadvantage if you’re not careful. Any unrealistic assumptions about your abilities, limitations, motivation, or the industry in which you are working need to be carefully considered. For example, if your goal requires you to be super organized, but you are not, that could cause your dream to fail. Dr. Muindi suggested using the SWOT analysis to find your “Major Assumptions.” List out the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats that pertain to you and your plan. For an example of a complete Logic Model, Dr Muindi shared his below.
The Logic Model is implemented and cherished at the SAi (STEM Advocacy Institute) founded by Dr. Muindi . This institute is “an incubator that provides access to research, infrastructure, mentorship, community, training, and funding to accelerate” projects of those who are lacking resources. These projects can be initiatives, tools, or programs built using the Logic Model. SAi aims to support underrepresented women and men that have great ideas and great work ethic, but are missing the connection to get their projects into development. They offer a 10-week SAi Fellows Program to get people started on their project, of which 3 weeks involve framing the question in the best possible way. Residents of the program attend lectures and spend time beefing up their projects so that by the end, they can pitch their ideas to the public and execute their plans independently. The demand for their incubator is accelerating so be ready to apply to the next cohort in June (program starts in September)!
To wrap up a perfectly informative event, we had a rapid Q&A session. There so many insightful questions, but here are just three great highlights from the attendees.
How do you know if your outcome is worth pursuing?
There’s no way to know for certain. Dr. Muindi stressed that you should be comfortable and willing to go back and change directions. As everything is a learning experience, your path towards your goal will be very blurry. Be comfortable with the unknown.
Should logic models be resilient to things like COVID-19?
It’s good to think about what potential threats could detail your plan, because every model has its strengths and weaknesses. You can think about this is the “Major Assumptions” section as well. For Dr. Muindi, the pandemic further energized him to follow and abide by his logic model instead of derailing him. The chaos around the world helped him see that his logic model was the right approach for the goal. If it wasn’t, he would’ve been further motivated to reframe and replan!
How do you make the end goal desirable to partners when they are needed long term?
Share your logic as early as possible and make sure your interests are aligned in early stages. As with any partnership, you need to know each other’s priorities. Communication is key for any collaboration!
One of Dr. Muindi’s final words of advice should be something that stays in your head every day and ally day. Ask yourself the hard question – is everything you’re doing making sense for your goal?
Ask yourself the hard question – is everything you’re doing making sense for your goal?Dr. Fanuel Muindi
This article was edited by Senior Editor, Samantha Avina.