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Linking objectives to activities

Logframe thinking starts out with an almost trivial but nevertheless extremely important principle: first, one decides where to go and, secondly, how one may get there. In other words, objectives are formulated which can be achieved by performing a set of activities. The controversy on whether this principle can be applied to research is older than the logframe debate itself. Good reasons are being brought forward why basic research will function differently, e.g., that outcomes are open. The usefulness of logframe thinking with regard to the type of innovations which are expected from the CGIAR system, however, is supported by four rather diverse arguments:

· It documents clearly the change away from activity/input to a project/output focus.

· The output orientation keeps clients at the forefront.

· Scarcity of resources requires priority setting which, in turn, must be based on specific objectives.

· Many applications have demonstrated that it works well in research planning.

Problem-based objectives

Output orientation per se may lead to efficient but not necessarily to effective research projects. Effectiveness in terms of achieving impacts means: solving problems. The logframe process, therefore, starts with problem analyses which lead to the identification of specific problems to be tackled and specific objectives to be reached.

Participatory team process

By adopting the logframe approach, CGIAR research planning continues to be participatory. Problems and objectives evolve through a discussion process which takes into account the different interests of various stakeholders. This process refers to all levels: projects, centres, and system. The fact that the present system logframe serves as the reference point for centre and project planning is not contradictory to this principle. The CGIAR system logframe merely describes the status quo in logframe terms, i.e., it reflects the priorities which have led to the present set of projects. It will be adapted once new research issues raised by CGIAR stakeholders need to be integrated.

Realism and consistency

Logframe thinking is more than just output orientation, it requires clear (or at least plausible) specifications of the intended impact of planned products. Thus, the "hierarchy of objectives" is linked by a set of hypotheses indicating the intended impact, i.e., the utilisation of outputs and, ultimately, the resulting benefits. The linkages have to be "tight", i.e., chances to reach higher level objectives must be good. Realism and consistency refer to scientifically sound hypotheses and to available resources. By linking resources, outputs, and impact in a realistic and consistent manner, logframes create a high degree of transparency and thus the basis for efficient management, meaningful evaluation, and enhanced credibility.

Considering external environments and factors

Research projects are not isolated islands, success is to a large degree affected by a project's environment. The logframe process includes a reflection on important external factors which are crucial for the success of a given project. "Assumptions" are hypotheses about factors which are outside the managerial control of a project, centre, or the system as a whole.

Monitoring and evaluation

As a management tool, the logframe is the scaffolding which allows timely monitoring of achievement levels. Targets are set by defining verifiable indicators and milestones, the attainment of which is measured. However, the idea of elaborating a logframe is not one of "filling boxes in a matrix" and then filing it away. It is, rather, one of constant iteration and feedback of information into the research process. This information will lead to management decisions which may include plan adaptations, a revision of priorities, or even the termination of a project.

Operational planning

The "logframe matrix" which summarises all important planning decisions, assumptions, and resource allocations is a frame which has to be specified for operational purposes. It has, therefore, to be supplemented by detailed (operational) plans specifying activities, milestones, responsibilities, time schedules, resources, etc. While the "logic" and the terminology of the logframe has to be respected in order to avoid miscommunication, the form of operational planning will be decided at centre (or possibly project) level.

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