LEAP Planning & Evaluation Cycle / Step 2

Step 2. How will we know?

Step 1 emphasises the importance of agreeing a vision of change.  Step 2 asks how will we know we've done it - how will we measure success?  In other words, we need to know if our actions are effective in producing the outcomes we planned.  To make such judgments, we need to collect evidence that provides measures or indicators of progress.  LEAP describes this stage as 'agreeing outcomes indicators'.

Outcomes indicators may be straightforward and easy to measure or more complex, depending on the type of information we are looking for.  Sometimes one indicator may be all that is necessary for clear explanation.  Sometimes several indicators may be needed.

We may be able to use direct measures (e.g. a comparison of the price of fruit and vegetables in a food co-op with prices in other food outlets allows us to measure whether the existence of the food co-op improves the availability of more affordable health foods).  However we often need to use more general indicators (e.g. a reduction in anti-depressant prescriptions is often considered to be an indicator that there is less stress in the population).

It is important that we also think about measuring change by gathering qualitative evidence as well as facts and figures (quantitative evidence).  For example, we should record people's own opinion and experience of what has changed or improved.

Once we have agreed our indicators, we should conduct a baseline study.  This simply means gathering evidence that tells us where things stand at the beginning of the process, using the indicators that have been chosen.  Baseline information is essential - if we want to measure change we need to be able to make a 'before and after' comparison.

It is important that all stakeholders agree on the indicators to be used.  Agreeing indicators is the process of agreeing our criteria for judging success.  The indicators chosen should reflect what is important to all those involved.