5. Using Performance Measures /

5.5 Selecting the right indicators


We have selected performance indicators that are specific and measurable.

To meet the standard in full, you have only chosen indicators that provide precise and reliable information, and which show progress over a reasonable length of time. Your indicators focus on changes that you can observe and measure.

You are likely to come up with a long-list of possible performance indicators that you feel you could or should measure.

Where possible, it’s usually best to focus on performance indicators that are countable. For example, the number of people that reduce alcohol dependency, move into independent accommodation, or report increased confidence due to your work. Such indicators answer questions about the quantity of outcome achieved, “How many?”, “How much?” or “How often?”. The measures may be an absolute level of change, a percentage, an average, or a ratio.

Try to choose indicators that are as specific as possible to the changes that you can observe and measure. These indicators might be direct, partial or indirect depending on the situation.

Type of Indicator Description
Direct Measure A direct measure is one that is a really good fit, in that it reflects the different dimensions of the change you are working to bring about and enables direct measurement.
Partial Measure A partial measure reflects in part the change you want to bring about, where that part is significant enough to stand as an indicator for the whole of the change.
Indirect Measure An indirect measure represents an approximation or proxy for the change, or measure of the concept, used where it is not feasible to directly observe or measure the change itself.

The choice of performance measures you choose will depend on your unique circumstances and the changes you are working towards. There are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ choices, but there are some things to think about when selecting indicators in order to ensure a good fit.

Course 5 in the Impact Practice series from the Social Enterprise Institute provides a set of criteria and tips for selecting indicators.

When selecting indicators the old saying ‘less is more’ is definitely true. Don’t try to record everything. Be realistic about the number of indicators you set out to monitor. Usually between one and three indicators are adequate to measure an outcome.

Ensure that these represent an appropriate mix and balance of indicators that get to the heart of the changes you are trying to measure.