An effective monitoring programme needs precise and specific measures that can be used to assess progress towards achieving the intended goals. These are called indicators. An indicator is something that can be seen, measured or counted and that provides evidence of progress towards a target. Some examples of basic monitoring indicators for urban sanitation and waste management are:
- number of households with unimproved latrines
- number of schools with improved latrines
- number of people using communal latrines
- number of people using public latrines
- number of public toilets constructed
- number of health workers trained in solid waste recycling and reuse
- number of institutions with improved VIP latrines and handwashing facilities
- number of households with access to improved sanitation facilities
- number of schools with access to adequate sanitation
- number of community members who received education and information on the safe handling and disposal of wastes
- number of community members trained on safe handling and disposal of wastes
- number of community meetings held on safe handling and disposal of wastes.
These are all examples of indicators that could be used to monitor progress towards specific programme targets.
Key performance indicators
The terms ‘performance indicator’ or key performance indicator (KPI) are often used by organisations to describe measures of their performance, especially in relation to the service they provide, and how well they have met their strategic and operational goals. KPIs can be measures of inputs, processes, outputs, outcomes or impacts for programmes or strategies. When supported with good data collection, analysis and reporting, they enable progress tracking, demonstration of achievement and allow corrective action for improvement. Participation of key stakeholders in defining KPIs is important because they are then more likely to understand and use them for informing management decisions.
KPIs can be used for:
- setting performance targets and assessing progress toward achieving them
- identifying problems to allow corrective action to be taken
- indicating whether an in-depth evaluation is really needed.
Sometimes too many indicators may be defined without accessible and reliable data sources. This can make the evaluation costly and impractical. There is often a trade-off between picking the optimal or desired indicators and having to accept indicators which can be measured using existing data.
The percentages are calculated from the data collected during monitoring surveys. For example:
Percentage of households with a functioning latrine = Number of households who have a functioning latrine x 100 Total number of households
The advantage of KPIs is that they provide an effective means to measure progress toward objectives. They can also make it easier to make comparisons. For example, different approaches to a common problem can be compared to find out which approach works best, or results from the same intervention in a number of districts can be compared to find out what other factors affected the outcomes. It is important for KPIs to be carefully defined so they can be applied consistently by different organisations (Jones, 2015). For example, the definition of ‘functioning latrine meeting minimum standards’ in the KPIs listed above, should specify exactly what the minimum standards are. Without precise definitions, survey data could be collected and interpreted by different people in different ways which would make comparisons meaningless and useful analysis and evaluation impossible.