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SPICE up your Evaluation Indicators this Valentine's Day

A few months ago we met a lonely outcome who placed an ad for an indicator to be her partner. She was successful in finding the indicator she desired. He is SMART and he seems to CARE about the important things.

In other words, he was Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. Furthermore, he was Comparable to other units and denominators, he lent himself to Aggregation, he was Realistic and last but not least, he was Easy to Understand.

With all these traits, what more could an outcome ask for in an indicator?

Well, apparently, there can be more to indicators. For you see, all of the above characteristics refer to how the indicator was developed. The outcome shared some of her secrets on how the indicator can be used.

With Valentine's Day being around the corner, this is her advice on how to SPICE up indicators.

S - Subjective: According to Roche, C, 1999 "informants have a special position or experience that gives them unique insights... in this sense, what may be seen by others as 'anecdotal' becomes critical data because of the source's value". p.49. As such, there should be a place in the programme design for indicators with subjective properties.

"The subjectivity of one's perspective'

P- Participatory: As much as possible, the process for developing indicators should be inclusive and participatory. Marginalised groups (such as ethnic minorities, women and children who are at higher risk of being socially excluded), beneficiaries and relevant stakeholders should be consulted and have a say in the indicators that are developed and ultimately chosen.

"Rex should not be penalised for being hatched with smaller hands. The teacher should pay extra attention when he raises his hand to participate"

Interpreted and communicable: indicators developed in specific or local context may have meaning that is not readily understood by others. There should be a mechanism in place to allow for the 'translation' of the true meaning of an indicator to others.

"The dire consequences of misinterpreting the signs and indicators"

Cross-checked and compared: the indicator's ability to be an accurate measure of the behaviour, practice or task that is the expected output or outcome of the intervention (in other words, the validity), should be cross-checked by comparing different indicators. This review of the indicator and the accompanying data, should be done throughout the life- span of the programme. This is to ensure that the indicators are still appropriate for changing contexts.

Empowering: once the process for developing indicators is participatory and inclusive, then this allows for critical reflection and understanding of the programme. In this way, the development of indicators becomes an empowering process.

That's all for now folks!

Sign up now for ARCIL Foundation's upcoming workshop on M&E in Portugal, 6-7 April, 2016

Roche, C. 1999. Impact Assessment for Development Agencies: Learning to Value Change. Oxfam GB.

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​​​Ann-Murray Brown

Monitoring, Evaluation and
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