What are they and why you need them
What are indicators?
An indicator is something that you can measure. It can show evidence that you might be reaching your goal, or maybe that you’re not.
Indicators can answer these types of questions:
- Have our objectives been met?
- What progress we have made?
- How close are we to our targets?
- Is a change we are interested in happening?
However, indicators only tell you that something has happened. They can’t tell you:
- What has caused any change?
- Whether or why our programme has made a difference?
- Why and how change occurs.
- What happened for participants or what they think or feel.
Good ideas when selecting indicators include:
- Use positive indicators that show what the project wants to achieve or move towards, rather than negative indicators, such as removing something or having less of something.
- Use a small number of relevant indicators rather than a long list of semi-related indicators.
Types of indicators
There are many types of indicators, which can be clustered in these ways:
- Participation – who took part; how many?
- Process – what you got up to and how many were involved.
- Results – whether or not you got what you wanted.
- Outputs – things that your programme changed.
- Outcomes – what changes you can show your programme caused in the medium-to-longer term.
- Impact – long-term effect.
|TYPE OF INDICATOR||DESCRIPTION|
|Participation Indicators||Interest and participation of locals and backers in what’s happening (who).|
|Progress Indicators||Measure what happened, against what you wanted to happen.|
|Possibility Indicators||Changes in belief about what’s possible and enthusiasm for the next step (can do/do next).|
|People Indicators||How have people’s situations changed?|
|Policy/Systems Change||Track changes to thinking, funding, policies and approaches (now being done differently).|
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Choosing great indicators can be tricky. Indicators are blunt instruments and when things get complicated it’s even harder to choose good ones. In complex situations, choose indicators carefully and don’t rely only on them.
It’s good when several people choose indicators. Involve those who will collect the data, those who will use it and, if appropriate, the participants. Find out what a project’s funders and decision-makers think are robust and useful indicators.
Features of useful indicators
- A guide to choosing and using indicators
- Māori Community Wellbeing and economic indicators developed by Te Wānanga o Raukawa (and others)
- Community Waitakere commissioned Innovate Change to bring together a collection of social and community wellbeing indicators
- Mason Durie’s Whānau Capacity Indicators
- World Bank indicators database across a wide range of sectors
- An interactive map of key progress indicators used by government
- How to develop community-level indicators and some examples
- Indicators of sustainable community: ways to measure how well a community is meeting the needs and expectations of its present and future members
- An international database of standard indicators from a wide range of sectors