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What is an Indicator Reference Sheet?

Have you ever picked up a logical framework and saw indicators that stated things like 'number of vulnerable persons with access to quality healthcare', or 'percentage of youth with improved skills'.

Technically, these indicators are ok.

However, you were not a part of the discussion when 'vulnerable persons' were defined, nor do you know what qualifies as 'quality healthcare'. Likewise, what merits being classified as an 'improved' skill? Any passing grade on a test, or only a score of 80% and higher?

Are you beginning to see how two persons reporting on the same indicators can collect different data?

For example, in one partner organisation, 'vulnerable persons' are only women and children, while for another partner organisation who is implementing the same programme, 'vulnerable persons' also mean the elderly (including men) and persons with disability.

One handy tool to assist with getting everyone on the same page, is the Indicator Reference Sheet.

This document defines the terms mentioned in the indicator. It also gives the unit of measure ( e.g. number of hours, percentage of households) and details on how calculations are made (e.g. for percentages, what is the numerator and denominator times 100). It can also mention the source for the data (e.g. government ministry, census etc.), the rationale for formulating the indicator and the methods for data collection (e.g. tools, methods, and procedures for collecting raw data can be described. These include document review, structured interviews, focus group interviews, written survey, ledger of patients, etc. If the indicator is an index or composite indicator, the procedure or formula for construction or calculation can be described)

The image below gives a summary of the basic or core elements of an Indicator Reference Sheet. Naturally more areas can be included in the document.

Source: USAID (2016). "Performance Indicator Reference Sheet(PIRS) Guidance & Template A Mandatory Reference for ADS Chapter 201."


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​​​Ann-Murray Brown

Monitoring, Evaluation and
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