Tools to assist with monitoring: outputs and indicators

Outputs and indicators are important tools to assist the process of monitoring. In particular, they allow progress towards an objective to be monitored.

Outputs are generated as a result of particular efforts or activities. For example, the effort of researching, writing and editing, has resulted in the production of these educational materials on children’s rights for health workers. The material produced is the output of the effort that has been made. The output contributes to the objective of educating health workers about child rights. Whether or not it delivers that objective is dependent on many other factors, for example, the time that health workers have to study the materials. Other examples of outputs include the number of people that have been trained on a topic, the number of children that have been vaccinated against a particular disease.

Outputs are the specific type and amount of goods, services or other measurable results, which are produced by specific activities or effort. Outputs are planned, are usually clearly observable and measurable, and should contribute to a particular objective.

Indicators, or success indicators, as they are sometimes called, can help to measure progress towards a specific objective in a consistent and objective manner. Indicators are generally agreed in advance of activities that aim to bring about change, so that the effect of these changes can be measured. Returning to our example above of the production of educational materials on children’s rights for health workers, a success indicator in this case might be that 50% of health workers have access to the materials. In your work, an indicator that is more challenging would be that violence against children is shown to reduce over a period of time.

Indicators are facts that provide an objective measurement for assessing the state or level or condition of something, usually in an area where there is a desire to see change.

Activity 2.2: Monitoring specific issues in your practice

If you studied Module 3, Study Session 2, you may remember Achen, a 14-year-old girl who visited a doctor complaining of headaches. During the discussion, she broke down and said that her father was sexually abusing her. However, she did not want you to do anything or tell anyone because it would cause many problems. Her mother would not believe her and if action was taken against her father, it would destroy the family and her mother would blame her.

The case dealt with the difficult decisions you may have to make as a health worker in determining what action to take in the best interests of a child. Now we are going to think about this situation in relation to monitoring. Later we will use the same case to think about evaluation.

Take a few minutes to think about the following questions and write down a sentence or two in response to each. Share your ideas if you are working in a group.

  1. Why might you want to introduce monitoring for cases involving sexual abuse?
  2. What kind of information would be useful to collect?
  3. How might the information be used?
  4. Could monitoring of Achen’s case make a difference to other children?
  5. Can you identify at least one output and one indicator for this situation?

Compare your answers with the suggestions at the end of the session.

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Making decisions about monitoring

2.4 What is evaluation?