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Last edited: January 03, 2012

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An indicator is a “quantitative or qualitative factor or variable that provides a simple and reliable means to measure achievement, to reflect the changes connected to an intervention, or to help assess the performance of a development actor” (OECD-DAC, 2002). In simpler terms, an indicator is a pointer that shows, or points to, information needed for monitoring and evaluation.

Practical Tips: It is generally recommended to design indicators that are SMART – i.e. specific, measurable, appropriate, realistic and time-bound. To attain basic standards of scientific rigor, it is recommended to use the additional criteria outlined below:

Effective indicators in data collection are…

  • Valid: They measure the phenomenon that they are intended to measure.
  • Reliable: They produce similar results when used more than once to measure the same phenomenon. “Measurable” does not necessarily mean quantitative. In many cases, qualitative descriptions can capture the information needed more effectively.
  • Specific: They measure only the phenomenon they are intended to measure.
  • Sensitive: They reflect changes in the status of the phenomenon being studied.

To identify appropriate indicators, a) reflect on how the campaign is to bring about change (i.e. its activities as set in the strategy) and then b) decide what changes – via new activities, outputs, outcomes or impact – are expected to be brought about, c) who will be responsible, and d) when and where actions and changes are expected to occur. Then, determine valid, reliable, specific, sensitive and operational ways of observing these actions and changes.

Example: If one aspect of your campaign is to heighten VAW survivors’ awareness of a VAW telephone hotline, then an adequate indicator to assess change could be an increase in phone calls to the hotline after campaign rollout. However, do not forget to verify if you can attribute the increase to campaign exposure, e.g. by asking a sample of callers where they have learned about the existence of the services, and what has prompted them to call.