Cutting through the jargon

Words matter                                            

All those working in the social sector tend to use common terms in specific ways – and not always the same specific way! This glossary covers a range of terms and shows how they’re often used, and a brief explanation as to how we use them and what we mean by them.

Words used

What is meant

(People might also refer to policy, which might also be a mechanism for achieving change.)

Any set of activities managed together over a period of time that aims to achieve a positive change for a person or group of people you work with.


Note: both Result and Impact are used in varying ways to mean slightly different things. Use with care and be clear what you mean.

The changes (e.g. in attitude or behaviours) that are likely or achieved as a result of your service delivery (or social intervention) in the short-, medium- or long-term.


The extent to which you have achieved the changes you set out to make for the people you work with. These might be changes for individuals or changes to groups or systems, depending on your objectives.


How far you are delivering your programme with the least possible use of resources to the area of greatest need.


How far you are getting the best possible results for the resources you have.

Some people go further and talk about whether this is improving over time or finding new ways to deliver.

Theory of change
Programme story
Programme theory
Intervention logic

A comprehensive description of how and why a desired change is expected to happen in a particular context. It tries to understand the causal links between what you do and what change occurs – why you believe it will happen.

Logic model
Intervention logic
Logical framework
Logframe (technically speaking a logframe is a table, not a diagram, see this article for more information)
Benefits map (software and business types use this one)
Results chain

A diagram or picture of your theory of change that shows in simple terms how what you are doing is expected to lead to the changes you intend.

Outcomes framework

Most people use this term, however what’s included in a framework might be broader or narrower according to the situation or how your sector traditionally does this.

A tool that helps you to link what you want to achieve and how you will measure success.

Key performance indicator (KPI)

Something you can measure or demonstrate that reasonably shows a change that you have influenced.

Performance indicator
Key performance indicator (KPI)
Performance measure

Something you can measure or count that is the direct result of your activity.

Key performance indicator (KPI)
Key performance measure

The most important of a list of potential measures or indicators that can give you the key elements of what you need to know.


Last update: 2 Aug 2017