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Monitoring Assumptions

Because assumptions must hold true for a strategy or project to be achieved, Missions should devise ways to track assumptions.

USAID defines a full set of performance indicators for measuring progress for a CDCS Results Framework, or in a Logical Framework for a project, as including indicators or metrics needed to track assumptions, including any methods for tracking changes in the broader context in which strategies and projects are being implemented.

Diagram of CDCS Goal, DOs and Valid Assumptions

For a Mission CDCS, it is expected that critical assumptions will be identified, which lie beyond the Mission’s control and which, if not valid, could preclude achievement of the intended results of USAID’s strategy. It is important to recognize that some assumptions may apply to only one hypothesis, e.g., an assumption about the relationship between DO 1 and the CDCS Goal in the graphic above, while other assumptions , such as assumptions about political stability, might affect a whole strategy, i.e., all of the DO to Goal linkages in the diagram.

Tracking assumptions may require the use of indicators or metrics – even if only to demonstrate that a particular characteristic of the environment or budget commitment has remained stable. For some types of assumptions, such as those made about political will, more than one indicator may be needed. In other cases, such as the level of funding provided by a non-USAID entity each year, only a single indicator and virtually no data collection effort would be needed for tracking. For many CDCS’ what may be appropriate are a set of context indicators that can be tracked using existing data and which, taken together, would indicate that the environment as a whole remains stable and conductive to program success. USAID defines context indicators as indicators that:

...measure conditions relevant to the performance of projects and programs, such as macro-economic, social, or political conditions, critical assumptions of a CDCS, and the assumptions column of project Logical Frameworks. Context indicators do not directly measure the results of USAID activities, but rather the factors that are beyond the management control of the Mission. For example, they can be used to indicate when the country context changes to the extent that the project must be adapted to be successful (i.e., percent of GDP generated by oil, specific legislation passed, etc.) or by identifying general conditions (i.e. stability after elections, government statements of support for given issue, etc.).

This section provides an optional Assumptions Monitoring Template that is intended to help USAID identify appropriate mechanisms for tracking the validity of assumptions that have an important bearing on the achievement of a CDCS Goal or any specific DO included in a strategy. When a PMP developing team begins to consider how assumptions will be monitored, it may also be useful to review the Assumptions segment of the CDCS section of this site, with particular reference to risky assumptions, as the assumptions about which we have the highest level of uncertainty are often the most important to monitor.

The website’s Project Design segment on the Logical Framework provides parallel tools at the project level, including examples of Logical Framework Assumptions, an optional risk assessment template and a Logical Framework variation template that includes a separate column for monitoring assumption.