7.12: Examples of indicators

The concept of indicators can be difficult. Take time to review the table to see possible indicators for the questions in the first column. Can you think of any other indicators?

Evaluation QuestionIndicators
Did the program increase youth-adult partnerships?# or % of Boards with youth participating in meetings before and after
# or % of Boards with youth on committees
# or % of Boards with youth in leadership position
Have producers reduced nitrogen application rates?# or % producers using less nitrogen after program compared to before
# acres managed according to ‘best moment practice’ guidelines
Did the apprenticeship program result in more youth staying in the area?# or % of youth who complete the apprenticeship program
# or % of youth who take jobs and stay in the community as a result of the program
Has the quality of life of senior citizens improved?# or % of seniors reporting specific ways in which their lives have improved
# of key family members who say that their seniors are more pleased with life
Does the mentoring program lead to improved school performance?# or % of participants whose grades improve
# or % of participants who have improved school attendance
# of participants feel more competent in school
Do livestock farms improve their own formal bio-security program(s)?# or % of livestock operations that improve, strengthen or intensify their formal infectious animal disease prevention practice(s) and related bio-security practice(s)
Do members actively participate in the coalition?# or % who attend meetings
# or % who serve on committees
# or % who implement activities
# of members feel engaged
Have local government officials increased their knowledge and skills in elections and financial administration?# or % local government officials attending
# or % reporting change in knowledge on budgeting, accounting, record keeping, and election management
# or % reporting increased comfort with parliamentary procedures and election management

Use the Examples of Indicators Table to think about the following questions. Then check for some possible answers.

A number in itself does not indicate the magnitude or rate of the result (e.g., 5 of 10 or 5 of 200?). The percent by itself does not indicate the size of the result (e.g., 30 % of what?) It is usually best to include both the number and percent.

Several indictors are usually necessary to better measure the item. There is no standard for the number of indicators to use. Several are usually necessary; more than three or four may mean that the item is too complex and should be better defined.

Be attentive to the cultural relevance of the indicator.

The more specific the indicator, the more specific your results will be, making aggregation and comparisons possible.

It is important to cover all aspects of the item being measured. Sometimes doing so means including additional indicators. Also, think about possible negative or unintended consequences and include those indicators.

Quantitative and Qualitative Indicators

Indicators are often expressed as numbers or percentages (number of…; percent of…; ratio of…; incidence of…; proportion of…). However, not all indicators are numbers. Qualitative indicators may be important, too. It is important to keep in mind that  “Not everything that counts can be counted.” Sometimes we need narrative or qualitative information as evidence. In fact, a mix of quantitative and qualitative indicators is often preferred.

Examples of Quantitative and Qualitative Indicators

  • In an economic development program, an outcome might be “communities will implement growth management plans.” Indicators might include:
    1. number, percent of communities that implement a plan (quantitative indicator)
    2. quality of the implemented plan according to set of standards (qualitative indicator)
  • In a conflict management program, one outcome might be “confidence in own ability to resolve conflict.”
    1. An indicator of this outcome might be: self-reported confidence (qualitative indicator)

Indicators and Targets

Sometimes, programs set, or are required to set, performance targets (projections). These are specific, usually quantitative figures, to be reached as a measure of success. For example:

  • 30 percent of participants will use a savings and spending plan.
  • 50 percent of the county’s abandoned wells will be sealed.
  • 100 percent of municipal buildings will have a no-smoking policy.

When setting a target, it is always best to consider previous performance, history, and experience. When you have experience or information, it may be wise to wait until you’ve collected enough data to be confident that the target you set is plausible. Targets may refer to:

  • The number or percentage of people that are expected to change/do something.
  • The amount of change that is expected.

Let’s Practice! Try your hand at identifying indicators. Read the evaluation question and select what you believe are indicators/evidence relating to that question. Select all answers you think are correct; then check your answer to compare it with ours.

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