Help with tracking progress
Exercise: Coming up with clear progress measures
If possible, work with staff, volunteers and beneficiaries. List each of your outcomes, and then get everyone to consider what would tell you change is happening (the indicators) and discuss the progress you would expect to make towards those changes through your project's lifetime.
Do you agree on your answers? How might you measure progress?
Setting indicator levels
You will want to be able to track how much progress you are making - this will mean setting some estimates for the level of change you hope for, for example "200 local residents will have a more positive attitude towards young people by the end of the second year".
It may be difficult to estimate the scale of change you should aim for, especially if you are starting a new and innovative project and trying to be clear about outcomes. Be as realistic as possible and base estimates on any information you have, such as:
- your experience or that of similar projects
- your capacity (time, people, money and other resources) or
- the scale of the need you want to meet.
Collecting information to measure change
Measuring changes for your beneficiaries or the environment will involve measuring things like changes in attitude (e.g. increased confidence) or behaviour (e.g. a reduction in the incidents of anti-social behaviour) or physical changes (e.g. an increase in the variety of life in a nature reserve).
When deciding what information to collect, it is worth considering:
Try to gather information from more than one source, such as beneficiaries, project staff and volunteers. This helps make your information more reliable because it balances different points of view and different types of evidence.
- the depth of information you need
- which method will get you the information you need
- how easy it will be for you to collect and analyse the information
- what methods will be appropriate for your beneficiaries or service.
You may collect information in more than one way and this can strengthen your findings. Some of the most frequently used methods for collecting information are:
If you work with individuals in a small project, you will generally collect information when you begin work with each beneficiary, at regular intervals after that (such as every three to six months) and at the end of their involvement with the project. You should also take account of how often and how far your funder will want you to report on your progress: you should plan to collect the necessary information shortly before you need to complete that report.
- keeping records and notes.
Some further tips on measuring your outcomes
- Think about how you identified evidence of need for your project. This may give you further ideas about how you can measure your outcomes. If someone else regularly collects statistics, you might like to look at them again (but remember that other factors might affect figures). Or if you surveyed potential local beneficiaries, you could survey them again once you have started running your project.
- Involve beneficiaries at all stages as well as filling in questionnaires themselves, they can help to identify outcomes and outcome indicators, test new forms, and encourage others to get involved. Your project is likely to be more effective if it gives the people it sets out to help a genuine say in the project.
- Be creative. Many projects have used drawing, role-play or other methods to gather information. Think about your beneficiaries and what is most meaningful and appropriate for them.
- Remember that other people and organisations can help you.
Reporting on progress.
Measuring progress will enable you to report on and review how much change is being achieved such as:
- 30 young people started taking more responsibility
- 26 parents said they felt less isolated
- 35 households/families started recycling for the first time
There are lots of tools to help you with measuring outcomes that are tried and tested in a wide variety of projects and settings. See the resources section for more information