7.11: Selecting meaningful indicators

Some indicators may be straightforward and easy to measure. Sometimes one indicator may be all that is necessary for clear explanation. For example, school graduation rate is an agreed upon indicator for the outcome decreased school dropout rate. Other times, several indicators may be required.

For example, improved parental involvement in school may require numerous indicators such as:

  • Attendance at school meetings
  • Participation i parent-school organizations
  • Calls made to the school
  • Attendance at school functions, and so forth

Selecting indicators takes time and thought. Keep refining the indicators until they clearly explain the aspect of interest. Engaging key stakeholders in identifying indicators helps ensure the selection of meaningful indicators.

We sat down with all the youth-serving groups and discussed, “What does a healthy child look like?”
We determined that he or she should have a sense of independence, of hope, of contribution to the community, of self, of worth, of belonging, and of closeness in relationships. Then we discussed how to measure these qualities in young people we work with. It really forced us to focus on what we are doing.”

Mary Beth Malm, United Way of America, 1996, p. 62

Ensure that you have general agreement across your audiences and users on what will indicate that which you want to know. For example, what would indicate:

  • Quality performance?
  • Success?
  • Effective implementation?

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