5. Using Performance Measures /

5.3 Focusing on the indicators that matter


We have performance indicators that relate to our planned outputs and outcomes.

To meet the standard in full, you have chosen indicators that are most likely to show the progress you are making. You have included indicators that show the difference you make (‘outcome indicators’) as well as those that show the amount or type of work you do (‘output indicators’).

Focus where possible on performance indicators that measure the changes you plan to bring about.

A visual representation of your change effort – often called a theory of change, outcomes map, or logic model – can be a great starting point. It sets out the most significant changes expected from the work of your social enterprise. This is covered in Section 4.5.

It’s usually best to include indicators that show the difference you make (your outcomes) as well as those that show the amount or type of work you do your (outputs).

Output indicators show the quantity of activity, the level of take-up of your services or products, the type of people or groups that access your activities, or the quality of activity and satisfaction with it. They help to measure progress in delivering the activity you planned to.

Example Outputs Illustrative Output Indicators
Deliver training workshops # of people that attended
% of places that were filled
Ratio of men to women attending
Provide telephone helpline # of calls received
% of calls relating to housing crisis
Av. length of calls
Provide drug treatment # of people receiving treatment
% that sustain treatment for 12 weeks
$ per treatment place provided

By contrast, outcome indicators show how well you are achieving the changes that result from your work. It can be helpful to consider indicators that reflect changes in Behaviour, Attitudes, Condition, Knowledge, or Status (BACKS) that you bring about for the people or groups you serve. These indicators all show change.

Example Outcomes Illustrative Outcome Indicators
Improved employment prospects % reporting improved job skills
# that secure a job
% that retain employment for < 26 weeks
Reduced levels of reoffending # of ex-offenders that return to family home
% that report confidence in the future
% that remain out of prison after 12 months
Reduced social isolation among elderly % that report being less lonely
Av. times per month socialise outside home
# of people that make a new friend

When forming potential indicators, it’s best to use neutral language to help you capture the changes accurately. For example, this could include “the level of…”, “the number of…”, “the extent to which…”, “the ratio of…”, “the rate of…”, or “the percentage of…”.

It is usually seen as good practice to involve others – such as board members, funders, or service users – when selecting the indicators you will track and report on. Course 5 In the Impact Practice series from the Social Enterprise Institute shows you how to do this.