Jen Riley interviews Damien Sweeney on program logics

Jenny Riley, Chief Innovation Officer with Clear Horizon, sat down briefly with Damien Sweeney, Principal Consultant in Clear Horizon International, to chat about his love of a good program logic.

Love is a strong emotion, Jenny, but I certainly have a strong appreciation for program logics, particularly when they are developed in a participatory manner, and are based on research or existing knowledge, and not just people’s assumptions.

Damien Sweeney

What’s the purpose of a program logic?

I see program logics as having a couple of purposes. Firstly, a logic provides a relatively simple visualisation of what one wants to achieve, and how to get there, without getting bogged down interpreting pages of words. A program logic is like a road map to guide implementation teams, and as a communication tool to stakeholders, including donors, and the clients, or end-users, or beneficiaries. 

They say a picture paints a thousand words, and this is true for program logics.

Secondly, the process of developing the logic is a great way to make explicit people’s knowledge, and gaps in knowledge. Ideally, program logics should be developed in a participatory manner, including subject matter experts, the end-users or beneficiaries, and program staff, among other. Knowledge is contextual, and experts may not have the lived-experience of the clients, and vice-versa. There is also a need to facilitate the process so that the logic represents what is possible, within the time frame and resources. The process of discussing what the end outcome is, and how it is expected to get there, can generate great discussion and clarification even among program staff. It’s the case of the journey being just as important as the destination.

You have experience in behaviour change. How do you see this fitting in with program logic?

An understanding of behaviour change is critical to designing programs for effective change. Whatever the sector, programs tend to require people changing social or professional practices, market practices, and these are all behaviour change. Changing someone or a group’s behaviour is not simply about providing information to improve knowledge or attitudes. Behaviour change frameworks provide the means to frame the right questions to the right people so we understand the drivers and barriers to change. This fits in with the concept of ‘user-centred’ design. It’s easy and cheap to make assumptions, but effective programs require an understanding, through research and not assumptions, the multiple causes to a problem. Just look at how much large product and services company spend on market research – they know that the more you invest up front, the more effective your service or product will be.

So what do you learn from attending a Clear Horizon training?

You gain an understanding of the fundamentals of program logics, and how to go about developing one through an interactive approach. Once you have the knowledge and the more you put the skills into practice, the better you’ll be at developing good logics. They can be used in so many applications – internal organisational change, strategy development, and change programs – domestic or international. It’s an essential tool and skill for designers, program staff, and evaluators – actually, for everyone really.


Our next face to face Program Logic and Theory of Change Training is on the 29-30 October in Melbourne. 

Don’t miss out.

Enrol now


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Dr Jess Dart

CEO & Founder

Inventor of practical methodologies and highly demanded facilitator, Jess navigates complexity with comfort and helps her clients to become clear about their desired outcomes and how to get there.

Recipient of the 2018 AES Award for outstanding contribution to evaluation, Jess has over 25 years experience in evaluating and designing social change initiatives and strategies in Australia and overseas.

In October 2005, Jess founded Clear Horizon Consulting and is now CEO. She is also a board member of the Australasian Evaluation society.

Jess is passionate about developing and designing real world evaluation and strategy for social justice and sustainability. She particularly works with systems change interventions, large scale strategy and social innovation. After completing her PhD she co-authored the Most Significant Change (MSC) guide alongside Dr Rick Davies, which is now translated into 12 different languages.

MSC is well suited to evaluation in the complex emergent context. The latest innovation by Jess, Collaborative Outcomes Reporting (COR), is a collaborative form of impact evaluation.

Jess is also an active mum and has two teenage boys. In a quiet moment, she loves reading far-future science fiction and enjoys long distance running.

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