Once you have identified indicators, you need to collect data on them on a regular basis so you can see how they are changing. Indicators are only useful to you if you can use them to show the before-and-after impact of your work. Good principles for data collection are to use the least resources to get the best information, to include participants or community members as much as possible, and to produce reports and integrate the results back into your management and planning processes as quickly as possible. Here are some tips.
• An off-the-shelf database package like Access is usually the most efficient way to input and manage the data, but depending on the amount of information and organizational resources, a standard spreadsheet program such as Excel may suffice.
• Surveys should be brief and to the point, with no more questions than necessary.
• The purpose of a survey should be transparent to respondents from the questions alone. It should only take a couple of minutes to explain the purpose of the questionnaire to the respondent.
• Test survey questions on several people before conducting a full survey to be sure that the people administering it understand and are comfortable with it and that respondents will interpret the questions the way you intended.
• When you want to know the experience or opinions of the community as a whole select respondents randomly. If you just interview people known to staff members, for example, you’re leaving out those who have no connection to your organization – and their views and experiences may be very different.
• Make sure the data collection strategy is reviewed by someone who understands survey design.
• Integrate data collection into the normal flow of your program. It often makes sense to administer a questionnaire at the point at which people enter program activities, such as when they are approved to buy a house or when they begin training. Be sure to explain the timing of any subsequent questionnaires they will be expected to complete. Repeating the same survey at later points in the program can provide a good measure of program outcomes.