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[Literature Review No.14] The Puzzle of the Universal Utilization of the Logical Framework Approach: An Explanation using the Sociological New Institutional Perspective

A logical framework (log-frame) is a matrix that summarize the key elements of a development cooperation project such as project purpose, outcomes, and inputs. Since its adoption by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in the early 1970s, the log-frame has experienced robust popularity among bilateral international development agencies and international NGOs worldwide. The log-frame approach has become “a standard tool” in international development but the effectiveness of the approach has always been the subject of debate.

Critics say that given the existing “complexity” in technical cooperation in developing countries, a simplified “blueprint” approach, on which the log-frame approach is based, is not fit to manage the messy reality of development projects there. Recent studies insist that different management approaches are required depending on the nature of each project. Then, the question is why international development agencies universally utilize the log-frame approach regardless of its known disadvantages in relation to complexity.

Unfortunately, no research has unraveled this controversy. The incontrovertible fact that the log-frame approach has remained unused or even unknown in areas other than in international development is also confusing. This paper reviews the literature on the debate over the functional advantages and disadvantages of the log-frame approach and that on sociological new institutional theory, and aims to shed light on the puzzle by examining it through this lens.

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