LEAP Principles

Need-Led Planning
LEAP is a framework for planned change. In other words it sets out to make a difference to things that cause concern to the people who are involved. We call this a need-led approach.  Before we start to do anything we have to ask ourselves what is the problem (or problems) that we are trying to tackle.

It sounds logical and obvious really - where else would you start but by identifying what it is you want to make a difference to? But what seems obvious is not always what people do. Particularly when organisations are involved in planning they often start by thinking about what they have available to them, like: staff, buildings, equipment or knowledge, and what they can do with them. We call this resources led planning.  Because they have investment in these resources, they think about making sure they are used without necessarily asking whether this would necessarily be a relevant and valuable thing to do. LEAP challenges this way of thinking. It is not saying resources are not important, they are essential, but saying that resources are only useful in terms of their capacity to do something about needs that people really experience and want to do something about.

A Focus on Outcomes
This distinction between outcomes and outputs is core to LEAP.  Outcome focused planning is a process of agreeing with partners, the change we hope to see and developing an action plan that is designed specifically to bring this change about. So how we make use of resources and the particular action we take (our outputs) should be guided by the change we are aiming for.  Also evaluation should focus not just on what we have done (outputs) but on what has actually changed as a result of this action.  Evaluation should be outcome focused so that we can learn about: whether we were effective or not; why we were effective or not and what we might do differently next time.  If we focus only on outputs (what we have actually done) there is a very limited amount we can learn about change.

Building capacity and developing assets
Sometimes a need led approach is criticised because it is thought that it creates a negative label. We look at what is wrong, not what is right in a community. Building on the latter is often called an asset-based approach. Though LEAP starts by saying we have to investigate what the needs are that require action, it equally recognises that achieving change depends on building on and using people's strengths and abilities. Need led and asset-based approaches are necessary companions. It is not just the people who experience the need that we should think about but also the people who can support activity to bring about change, those who might work in partnership with them and equally those who might actively resist attempts to achieve change. The framework can assist us and those we work with to think about the strengths and resources that might be available to address needs. Understanding strengths in relation to what we are trying to tackle helps us to be realistic and clear about what kind of difference we should aim for.  The framework invites us to think about the need in relation to three key factors:

  • Motivation - this focuses on what may stimulate people enthusiastically to address the need.
  • Capacity - this focuses on the ability that people have to address it.
  • Opportunity - this focuses on the context of the need and factors that improve the chance of doing something about it.

Partnership and Participation
The LEAP framework emphasises the importance of working in partnership to achieve change and improvement in the quality of life experienced by communities.  The issues we are trying to address tend to be complex and cannot be solved by one agency alone.  Working together brings added value and different perspectives, making it more likely that we will be effective.  Working in partnership is a complex process that LEAP can support.

The starting point for a participatory approach to planning and evaluation is that all stakeholders should be involved on an equal basis because they have a stake in what happens, either as contributors or beneficiaries.  The LEAP approach highlights the fact that often some key stakeholders, typically the community, are not involved in an appropriate way and that this has implications for how effective and equitable we can be.

LEAP describes the key steps in participatory planning and evaluation and poses critical questions that should be considered as part of the process. 

The LEAP approach to planning and evaluation is learning based.  Planning and evaluation are integrated in the framework so that we can use information from evaluation to learn about and adapt what we're doing as we go along. So evaluation is seen as a planning tool and similarly, evaluation is much more effective and useful if it is based on a clear plan that stated exactly what we wanted to achieve and how we thought we might do it. We can then make well informed judgments about the value of what we have done, the effect it has had, and the lessons we have learned.  

Within the LEAP approach evaluation is as much about the learning and development of all those involved as it is about accountability; and planning is about working collaboratively with and learning from other people. 

The LEAP approach emphasises self evaluation as an important learning tool that builds the capacity of individuals; organisations and partnerships to understand the process of change in their own specific context.