Results and indicators in IATI

Results and indicators are enormously important in IATI. Basically, the whole project of open data in development and humanitarian aid, is to answer the question: what happens in development projects worldwide, how money goes into which projects, and how successful were those projects?

To contribute to our knowledge and insights on this, every organisation involved needs to publish the results and indicators. This is a field in itself, which is known under several acronyms like MEL, MEAL, PME and many others. They all deal with monitoring, evaluation, and learning. Once a result framework is decided on, including what to measure, how to measure it, and how often, the next question is: how do you publish this in IATI? That’s the topic of this article.

First of all, make sure that the whole result framework is clear before you start thinking about IATI. It’s easy to confuse a problem in your result framework for a problem in IATI. If you have a clear result framework, things will be much easier in IATI.

We will go through the key elements from top to bottom.

Results are the things you want to improve. In the result in IATI, you record:

  • Name
  • Result type (output, outcome, or impact)
  • Which indicators it has.

All other fields are not necessary, unless you consider them important. You can, for example, add document links here. The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs asks you to not do that here but directly on the activity. The same goes for the economic classifications like flow type, aid type, etc. Those are already recorded on the activity itself. Aggregation status should be recorded in the indicator, not in the result.

The indicator shows how you want to measure the result. For example: if you want to improve school attendance of girls in an area (the result), the indicator is how you will measure what you did to achieve this, and what the effects are of your actions. You distinguish between output, outcome, and impact indicators. We don’t go into detail here, because that is a MEL subject that we assume you’re already familiar with.

Each indicator in IATI includes the following:

  • A title, obviously. Keep it clear and avoid too much jargon.
  • Measure. How do you measure this indicators? Options are units, percentage, ordinal, nominal and qualitative. We advise against using nominal. The output is usually units. You count the amount of actions done. For the outcome, you often (but not always) measure in percentage. What is the percentage of school age girls going to school? Or: what is the percentage of girls in a class? An ordinal indicator measures things on a scale of, for example, of 1 to 5. Often used in surveys.
  • Baseline. For output, this is virtually always zero. For outcome, it probably is not. In our example: some girls were already in school before your project started. For more information on the importance of baselines, see this Technical Tip.
  • Aggregation status (true/false). Can you add up these data over locations, years, activities? It would be great if we can, so if possible, measure your progress in such a way that aggregation status can be ‘true’, especially output indicators. Technically, this is a MEL subject again, so ask your MEL advisor for details here.
  • Under reference: a code, a vocabulary, and a vocabulary URL. These are a good idea, but not required by us, except in Strengthening Civil Society Partnerships.
  • All underlying periods.

Periods. During the projects execution, you measure the actual results of your indicators, in predefined ways and on predefined moments. You record the data in the periods. These all have start dates, end dates, and targets and/or actuals. You record:

  • A start and an end date. Ideally, each period of your indicator has the same length.
  • Target
  • Actual

The actual and target can be recorded in separate periods. Let’s say, for example, that you only have an end target for a five year programme, but you measure progress every year. You can add one period for the five years in which you record the target, and add different periods for each year in which you record the actuals.

Dimensions are part of the IATI standard and they do appear in the data of our partners, but we don’t process this information, so we don’t cover them here.