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. 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.
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 across all of the types of programs USAID funds for which it tries to collect data in a consistent way from all Missions — and custom indicators which are selected at the Mission level. Progress against most CDCS Results Frameworks are measured by a combination of these two types of indicators. At the CDCS Goal level, USAID recommends including context indicators as a special type of custom indicator, to measure conditions relevant to the performance of projects and programs, such as macro-economic, social, political conditions, or critical assumptions of a CDCS.
For some types of results, the selection of an appropriate indicator that can be used repeatedly in the same way is simple.
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.