Indicator Development and Monitoring & Evaluation

Indicator development is different from “Monitoring and Evaluation” (M&E), which, as practiced in most development agencies, is the art of disciplining and adjusting individual interventions, calibrating relationships between means and ends, and reporting about the process of development as it happens. Like a log frame, M&E is a micro-level tool of development. Indicators, by contrast, are guides to the field and operate at a macro-level: they point out possible directions of development, help leaders select routes that make the most sense, and chart progress toward a particular destination. Indicators can help situate and strategically position individual development programs and projects, and they can help orient the different components of government toward common goals.  But as we describe in a forthcoming discussion paper, indicators cannot by themselves draw conclusions, make decisions, or otherwise replace governance. They must be harnessed to institutions that exercise political authority.

Better indicators and M&E cannot by themselves satisfy the growing demand for “evidence” of what works in reducing violence, promoting safety, and advancing justice. Development agencies must make separate investments in research about the relationships between justice, safety, poverty reduction, and prosperity in order to build up a body of evidence and diminish the uncertainty that haunts the field. But indicators can help identify the kinds of relationships that warrant research, and research can help ignite the process of indicator development, as we are learning in Sierra Leone.