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Custom Indicators

Custom indicators are measures that USAID Missions use in combination with standard indicators to monitor progress towards intended results. Many measures that USAID can select as custom indicators are widely used across the development community. For example, a country's economic growth rate is not a USAID standard indicator, but it is one that many Missions track along with the standard indicator growth in GDP per capita.

Custom indicators supplement USAID's list of standard indicators. Missions are encouraged to use them in combination with standard indicators for multidimensional results where a single indicator may not be adequate for assessing progress towards intended results. Custom indicators are also appropriate for results for which no standard indicator exists. The challenge for a CDCS development team lies in selecting the set of indicators at each Results Framework level that will do the best job in terms of sending program managers signals about whether intended changes are occurring.

Missions whose strategy involves a trade component have available significant resources for measuring changes in exports and imports, as well as for monitoring trade restrictiveness and the impact of trade facilitation initiatives on the time and cost required to move goods across borders. The World Bank organizes vast numbers of indicators in this area using a five-part structure, in which trade performance or outcomes represents one cluster of measures.

For most Missions the indicator selection process is an iterative one, with initial ideas being refined as a consensus emerges about a strategy and its intended results.

Since it is expected that indicators included in a CDCS will actually be used, it is important that Missions be certain that collecting data on every indicator it selects is feasible and affordable in the country for which a CDCS is developed. For users who are new to indicator selection, looking ahead to the kit section on Performance Management Plans (PMPs), where the methods that will be used to collect and analyze indicator data must be articulated, is highly recommended. Some Missions work on their PMP as they develop their CDCS to ensure that indicator feasibility issues are considered on a timely basis.

When considering performance indicators, a CDCS development team may find the simple worksheet illustrated below to be a useful aid. This CDCS Performance Indicators Worksheet is also available for your online use.

CDCS Performance Indicators Worksheet
Results Level Results Statement Performance Indicators Type of Indicator
Development Objective (3) Broad-based economic growth 1. Growth in real domestic product per capita Standard
2. Real GDP growth rate Custom
3. Jobs created from exports Custom 
Intermediate Result (3.1) Improved trade performance 1. Foreign trade (X+M) as a percentage of GDP Standard
2. Total merchandise exports - value Custom
3. Export Concentration Index Custom

A Summary of Trade Results Indicator Use below from the same evaluation shows the frequency of use for indicators linked to each result in the Illustrative Hierarchy of Trade Results provided in this kit section. Frequencies for indicators used to monitor the CDCS level result Trade Performance Improved are shown below.

Custom Indicators Used in USAID Projects to Measure Trade Performance Improved
# Indicator Description
88 Exports in targeted sectors/firms/districts - value
45 Exports in targeted sectors/firms/districts - volume
16 Total value of trade under trade agreements
10 Exports to specific market or markets - value
9 Exports to specific market or markets - volume
7 Exports to specific market or markets - value
5 Exports and imports to specific markets - value
4 Total merchandise exports - value
3 Total services exports - value
3 Total exports (goods and services) - value
3 Imports in targeted sectors/firms/districts - volume
3 Export market share
2 Imports in targeted sectors/firms/districts - value

The World Bank indicators for its Pillar 5 may also be worth considering.

World Bank Trade Indicators Pillar 5: Trade Outcomes
  • Real Growth in Trade
  • Nominal Growth in Trade
  • Trade Composition (share of goods and services)
  • Trade Composition (share of goods, share of services)
  • Trade Integration
  • Trade Balances
  • Shares of World Trade
  • Growth in Shares of World Trade
  • Product and Market Diversification
  • Tourism, FDI, and Remittance
  • Other Variables