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Help with tracking progress

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Exercise: Coming up with clear progress measures

If possible, work with staff, volunteers and beneficiaries. List each of your outcomes, and then get everyone to consider what would tell you change is happening (the indicators) and discuss the progress you would expect to make towards those changes through your project's lifetime.

Do you agree on your answers? How might you measure progress?

Exercise: The journey from identifying need to intended outcomes

Write the current situation on the left of a large sheet of paper and the outcome you want to achieve on the right. Work with others to fill in the journey. For example:

Young people involved in anti-social behaviour       Young people positively engaged in the community

Example: steps along the way

Young people need opportunities to engage positively with community in order to divert or distract them from antisocial behaviour
Young people engage with project and talk about the difficulties they are experiencing
Young people start trusting and building relationships with those running the project 

Young people start to take responsibility for running activities with support

Young people positively engaged in the community and stop behaving in an antisocial way 

Then set clear levels for your indicators, to show progress towards achieving the outcome, for example:

  • 75 young people have felt able to engage with project workers to discuss their problems by the end of year one, another 100 by the end of year two, and a total of 200 by the end of the project
  • 60 young people report that they trust the project workers by year one, another 60 by year two, and a total of 180 by the end of the project
  • 10 young people are taking responsibility for running the project by year one, another 10 by the end of year two, and a total of 30 by the end of the project

Setting indicator levels

You will want to be able to track how much progress you are making - this will mean setting some estimates for the level of change you hope for, for example "200 local residents will have a more positive attitude towards young people by the end of the second year".

It may be difficult to estimate the scale of change you should aim for, especially if you are starting a new and innovative project and trying to be clear about outcomes. Be as realistic as possible and base estimates on any information you have, such as:
  • your experience or that of similar projects 
  • your capacity (time, people, money and other resources) or 
  • the scale of the need you want to meet. 

Collecting information to measure change

Measuring changes for your beneficiaries or the environment will involve measuring things like changes in attitude (e.g. increased confidence) or behaviour (e.g. a reduction in the incidents of anti-social behaviour) or physical changes (e.g. an increase in the variety of life in a nature reserve).

When deciding what information to collect, it is worth considering:

  • the depth of information you need 
  • which method will get you the information you need 
  • how easy it will be for you to collect and analyse the information 
  • what methods will be appropriate for your beneficiaries or service.
Try to gather information from more than one source, such as beneficiaries, project staff and volunteers. This helps make your information more reliable because it balances different points of view and different types of evidence.

You may collect information in more than one way and this can strengthen your findings. Some of the most frequently used methods for collecting information are:
  • questionnaires 
  • observation 
  • interviews 
  • keeping records and notes. 
If you work with individuals in a small project, you will generally collect information when you begin work with each beneficiary, at regular intervals after that (such as every three to six months) and at the end of their involvement with the project. You should also take account of how often and how far your funder will want you to report on your progress: you should plan to collect the necessary information shortly before you need to complete that report.

Some further tips on measuring your outcomes

  • Think about how you identified evidence of need for your project. This may give you further ideas about how you can measure your outcomes. If someone else regularly collects statistics, you might like to look at them again (but remember that other factors might affect figures). Or if you surveyed potential local beneficiaries, you could survey them again once you have started running your project. 
  • Involve beneficiaries at all stages as well as filling in questionnaires themselves, they can help to identify outcomes and outcome indicators, test new forms, and encourage others to get involved. Your project is likely to be more effective if it gives the people it sets out to help a genuine say in the project. 
  • Be creative. Many projects have used drawing, role-play or other methods to gather information. Think about your beneficiaries and what is most meaningful and appropriate for them. 
  • Remember that other people and organisations can help you. 

Reporting on progress.

Measuring progress will enable you to report on and review how much change is being achieved such as:


  • 30 young people started taking more responsibility 
  • 26 parents said they felt less isolated 
  • 35 households/families started recycling for the first time 


There are lots of tools to help you with measuring outcomes that are tried and tested in a wide variety of projects and settings. See the resources section for more information