Qualities and Characteristics of Indicators

An indicator is a variable whose value changes from the baseline level at the time the program began to a new value after the program and its activities have made their impact felt. At that point, the variable, or indicator, is calculated again. An indicator is a measurement. It measures the value of the change in meaningful units that can be compared to past and future units. This is usually expressed as a percentage or a number. Good Indicators must have the following qualities

Qualities of Good Indicators

Good Indicators can said to be roaring (ROARS):

Relevant: It measures an important part of an objective or output;

Objective: If two people measure the same indicator using the same tool, they should get the same result. The indicator should be based on fact, rather than feelings or impressions (another way to say this is to say that it should be Measurable);

Available: Indicators should be based on data that is readily available, or on data that can be collected with reasonable extra effort as part of the implementation of the (sub-) project.

Realistic: It should not be too difficult or too expensive to collect the information (related to the next one in the list);

Specific: The measured changes should be attributable to the project, and they should be expressed in precise terms

An easy way to remember this is to say that each indicator ‘ROARS’ (like a lion).

Characteristics of Good indicators are also SMART:

Specific: The measured changes should be expressed in precise terms and suggest actions that can be taken to assess them

Measurable: Indicators should be related to things that can be measured in an unambiguous way

Achievable: Indicators should be reasonable and possible to reach, and therefore sensitive to changes the project might make

Replicable: Measurements should be the same when made by different people using the same method

Timebound: There should be a time limit within which changes are expected and measured

In summary, indicators should be limited in number (you CAN have too many), comprise a mix of both quantitative and qualitative, be practical to collect and not dependent upon experts, and most importantly, tell us something about the project. The selection of indicators is critical, and there is clearly a range of criteria for their selection. However these are just guides, in the end project managers must make decisions and select indicators that will serve them well by providing information to better manage the project in order to achieve its objectives.

Examples of Indicators:

  • % decrease in prevalence of water borne diseases
  • % increase in proper hand-washing practices
  • % increase in household income
  • % increase in per unit yield of maize crop
  • % increase in survival rate of the livestock
  • # of CfW days created for the flood affectees