We use indicators for all sorts of things: is there enough petrol in the car (check the gauge); is the bath water too hot (stick your finger in it); am I a chance for that next promotion at work (does my boss think I’m any good).
The same is true for partnerships and platforms: indicators help us understand if we are working well together, if we’re achieving our shared and individual goals, and if our collective efforts are efficient and effective.
Indicators are probes or tools for understanding if change has taken place, and if so, in what direction. Indicators can help to simplify complex concepts and constructs (e.g. public beliefs, community awareness, trust), providing insights that can be tracked, shared and learned from. Indicators allow comparisons to be made, such as between countries, organizations (or even MSPs), over time, or against one or more standards. Importantly, indicators may be developed for all aspects of an MSP — how it is structured, what it does (i.e. processes), and what it achieves (i.e. outcomes).
For those working in, or interested in MSPs, spending time developing shared indicators can be detailed, but useful work. It is often through discussing and considering indicators that teams within MSPs move from conceptual ideas, to concrete measures. In doing so, these discussions help to uncover shared beliefs, differences of opinion, and assumptions on the destination an MSP is headed towards, as well as varied expectations stakeholders have of an MSP’s structure, processes and pathways for change. It requires a certain amount of looking in at what and how your MSP might measure, and a certain amount of looking out at what and how others in your sector are measuring and tracking.
Features of good indicators are common across all types of work and investigation, as they will be relevant to the ways indicators are used in the measurement of change. These features are often translated into criteria and will be communicated in different ways. Common features of good indicators include:
- Specific: they are focused, defined and at relevant levels of measurement
- Valid: they measure what they say they will measure
- Reliable: they consistently generate the same results
- Feasible: they are possible to collect with available resources
- Timely: they provide information when it is most useful
- Meaningful: they hold value for those who are interpreting and using them
If indicators are of interest to you and your MSP, download our free guide on Strengthening Multi-stakeholder Platforms and Partnerships, and check out our additional resources on developing meaningful indicators of change.