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Performance Monitoring Indicators

Performance indicators are the measures USAID uses to detect progress towards the results included in a Results Framework. When it pairs each result with appropriate and precise measures, USAID eliminates a good deal of the ambiguity that is inherent in many results statements.

Performance indicators refine our understanding of the results a CDCS commits a Mission to achieving. As USAID’s ADS requires, a PMP is expected to monitor “how progress, performance, programmatic assumptions, and the operational context will be monitored” under each DO, using performance indicators.

Choosing Performance Indicators

When preparing a CDCS, staff must select indicators following USAID requirements which call for:

  • At least one performance indicator for each IR identified in the CDCS Results Framework;
  • At least one performance indicator for each sub-IR identified in the CDCS Results Framework; and
  • At least one performance indicator for any Project Purpose that is not aligned to an IR or sub-IR, following PAD approval.

Notably, USAID does not require that performance indicators be identified at either the RF Goal or DO level, though selecting DO level performance indicators is an option Mission’s may elect.

Substantively, indicators may be either quantitative or qualitative in nature. For any measure to be useful as a performance indicator it must be valid (measure what it portends to measure) and reliable (usable multiple times in precisely the same way - replicable). Seven complementary characteristics of good performance indicators that help make them good choices for monitoring USAID program performance are highlighted below.

  • Direct
  • Objective
  • Useful for Management
  • Attributable
  • Practical
  • Adequate
  • Disaggregated, as necessary

These characteristics are discussed in depth in USAID’s TIPS for Selecting Performance Indicators featured on this page. With respect to disaggregation by gender, USAID's How-To Note on Gender Integration into Performance Plans and Reports is an important resource on the use of gender sensitive indicators. Also see this website's page on Data Disaggregation which includes readings and tools that may prove useful.

USAID requires that performance indicators be identified for every result at each results level included in a Results Framework. For any particular result, a maximum of three indicators are allowed.

USAID distinguishes between standard indicators — a menu of indicators developed jointly with the Department of State, across all of the types of programs USAID funds for which it tries to collect data in a consistent way from Missions — and custom indicators which are selected at the Mission level. Progress against most CDCS Results Frameworks is measured by a combination of these two types of indicators.

For some types of results, the selection of an appropriate indicator that can be used repeatedly in the same way is simple.

  • If the result of interest reads: cost of shipping goods reduced, there is little question but that the metric for judging whether progress is being made will be cost. The only real choice in this case might be how cost is denominated, dollars or pesos. For other types of results there may be a wider range of options.
  • For the result: export production of tomatoes increased, views may vary on whether the best measure would be kilos per hectare; the number of hectares in export production for this crop; the number of farmers growing tomatoes for export; or whether a combination of indicators is need to capture a program’s real intent.

As a general rule, it is a good idea to start the indicator selection process by reviewing USAID’s standard indicator list and selecting those that are appropriate for the results shown on the Mission’s Results Framework. In most technical fields, including trade, only a fraction of the standard indicators listed would be appropriate at the CDCS Results Framework level. Others are more appropriate at the project level, and are discussed in a later section of the kit.