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What Are Impact Indicators & Metrics?

Today we will be breaking down what Impact indicators & metrics are, examples of indicators, and different levels of indicators measurement needed for a social impact project. 

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Let’s start with understanding what indicators & metrics are? Simply defined, indicators & metrics show if there have been any changes as a result of your intervention, and how much change.Let’s take an example, most of us have grown up giving end of the year exams in school. And also hating them, pretty sure for most of us it was a time of the year which we hated the most & often questioned why do we have to do this? Right?

Well, the goal of the schooling system is to impart knowledge to kids. Each year’s curriculum is carefully designed to make sure we learn new things on different subject matters. However, how can you make sure if the schooling system has actually succeeded? Hence, the dreaded exams. These end of the year exams act as indicators to show if the kids actually learned & gained knowledge. (The efficacy of this is questionable but that’s a topic for a different discussion.)

Similarly, in Impact projects, outcome indicators act as tangible and measurable pieces of evidence that help you

  • Measure and track the change that occurred as a result of your intervention
  • Show if the goals you set out to achieve with our impact projects have been achieved or if your intervention is making progress towards the goals
  • Show & communicate the impact created to stakeholders & donors

Let’s take another example related to a social impact project, a project started in West Sumatra to tackle the problem of low literacy rate among kids in rural areas. The organisation after doing the need assessment realised that the callous attitude of parents towards education, literacy, and their importance was one of the reasons for low literacy rates in that area. So the organisation designed an intervention to raise awareness among parents & adults about the importance of education & literacy. 

The awareness campaigns ran over a period of 24 months in 8 isolated villages in West Sumatra. Now, how can the organization know that the desired change actually took place as a result of their intervention?One very direct indicator in this project is the literacy rate. It’s a direct and relatively straightforward indicator to measure. However, in most cases, the ultimate goal outcome is a result of a chain of outcomes.

Therefore, it is important for any project to measure indicators for all outcomes that lead to the final goal outcome, especially in cases where the outcome is not immediate. In our example, the organization had 3 outcomes that formed a part of this chain reaction which led to the ultimate outcome – increase in the literacy rate. The first outcome was the attitudinal change in the parents & adults of the villages towards the value of education. For this, the organization had 2 key indicators that they measure: 

  • The increased perception that education plays a crucial role in decreasing poverty
  • The increased perception that education plays a vital role in improving health standards of the people

The second outcome in this chain reaction was a behavioral change – an increase in enrolment & retention in schools in these 8 villages. The two indicators used to measure this outcome or the change were:  

  • Increase in enrolment rate in schools after the awareness campaigns were started. 
  • Decrease in dropout rates in the schools

The third outcome in this chain reaction was an increase in seriousness towards studies & education. The indicator used to measure this outcome was: 

  • Increase in average attendance rate in a year

Now all of these were outcome indicators, which are really important for impact measurement of any project.

However, if you are truly trying to understand the impact of your intervention, then the outcome indicators will only show you half of the picture. 

If you are aware of the Theory of Change model, then you would know that outcomes are a result of outputs that are created by the activities and input which form any intervention. If you don’t know what the Theory of Change is then we would highly recommend you to read the material available on our website about Theory of Change

Now continuing our discussion, as Theory of Change tells us, outcomes can’t occur in isolation. They are a result of the input, activities, and outputs produced by them. 

To truly understand the efficiency and effectiveness of your intervention, you need to track the indicators at each of the stages of input & output. This is quite important because: 

  • Outcomes level change won’t take place immediately, measuring indicators at stages of output will help you understand if the preconditions needed to reach the outcome level goals are being met. This can help you understand the performance of your intervention and raise any red flag at an early stage. Output indicators in our example could be the number of parents who were exposed to the awareness campaign & training. So if you could only reach 30% of your target in the training, then you know early on that you might not be able to reach the desired level of change. 
  • Input level indicators, on the other hand, help you understand the resources being put in any intervention. This will help you understand how efficient & effective your intervention is. It can also act as important learning in planning for future projects. Additionally, it would be an important requirement to analyze your SROI, if it’s a part of your impact measurement plan. Input level indicators could be the volunteer hours spent in conducting the training or the monetary resources invested. 

We really hope this helped you understand better about Impact indicators & metrics, and will help you in measuring the impact of your social intervention. We will be adding in more material on our website to help you understand the nuances in determining what indicators or metrics to choose, so stay tuned for that. You can sign up for our newsletter to make sure you are informed when these are added. If you have any more questions or feedback, feel free to write to us at contact@artemis.im. 

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