IC TIG Week: Gail Vallance Barrington on Logic Models and My Rich Uncle

I’m Gail Vallance Barrington and I’m an independent consultant. It’s hard to teach novice clients about logic models. This year, instead of presenting a technical monologue, I came up with a story to capture their attention. It’s called My Rich Uncle and it goes like this:

Icebreaker: You suddenly discover that you have a rich and eccentric uncle who lives far away and he wants to give you $30,000 to buy a car. Working in small groups, decide what your uncle’s name is and where he lives. To get the money, you will need to prove to him why you need the car. Use this worksheet and have fun coming up with the answers. [N.B. Do not provide the labels below until the exercise is over.]


  1. List three compelling reasons why you need the car and the difference it will make in your life. [Program Purpose, Long-term Outcomes]
  2. Your uncle wants to know that you are a good planner. What will you need to have in place before you get your car? List three or four important things you need. [Inputs]
  3. He wants to know how you will use your car on a regular basis. What will your main uses be? [Activities]
  4. Your uncle is pretty picky, and of course, he lives very far away. He wants to be sure that you actually spent the money on a car and that you actually use it. Every six months, he wants some concrete proof that you have been using it as planned. What evidence can you put in a brown paper envelope and mail to him? [Outputs]
  5. Finally, after three years, you suddenly hear from your uncle. He is coming for a visit! He wants you to show him what changes the car has made to your life. Can you start planning for it now? [Short- and Intermediate-Outcomes]

Reflection: Once the groups have reported their answers, reflect on such topics as the group interaction, breakthrough thinking, general conclusions and the fact that everyone has just developed a logic model.

Next Step: Launch immediately into developing the logic model for their program. Having set the stage in this relaxed and fun way, it is easy to make connections with their own context.

Lessons Learned: I have used this exercise with novice clients, students and webinar participants. Every time the typical problem of differentiating between Outputs and Outcomes seems to melt away. Further, the accessible nature of the story provides clarity about a funder’s need for accountability.

Next time you teach logic models, why don’t you try it? Let me know how it goes.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating IC TIG Week with our colleagues in the Independent Consulting Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our IC TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

4 thoughts on “IC TIG Week: Gail Vallance Barrington on Logic Models and My Rich Uncle”

  1. Jane Nell Luster

    I agree with the other commenters. This is a great idea. It combines adult learning principles with teaching of the concepts of logic models.

  2. Catherine Nameth

    Thank you for sharing this- a good example for how to help others develop logic models and understand why/how such models can be useful.

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