Quantitative Tools of Evaluation vs. Qualitative
Putting quantitative (or qualitative) tools to work means defining the right indicators to measure. An indicator is a metric used to measure some aspect of a program. In the planning stages, the indicators that will be used throughout the monitoring and evaluation processes should be defined. This enables organizations to truly measure the extent to which what they think or want to happen actually happens.
Indicators can be both quantitative and qualitative, depending on what needs to measured and in what ways.
Quantitative M&E Indicators
Primarily output-focused, they help organizations determine if activities are taking place, when, and to what extent.
By definition, numbers are used to communicate quantitative measures (percentages, ratios, $ sums, etc.)
Qualitative M&E Indicators
Involve subjective terms
Often outcome-focused, they can help organizations determine if a change has occurred by gathering perceptions from beneficiaries.
Data accuracy can often be difficult to assess given the subjective nature of the collecting judgements about change (see example below)
Examples of M&E indicators
Using the example of a social enterprise that employs a 1-for-1 model (you buy a pair of shoes, we donate a pair of shoes to a person in need) we can examine some potential indicators for their donation program over a period of one year.
- Number of shoes donated
- Number of lives affected
- Amount of money saved in beneficiary group (not having to buy shoes)
- Perception of change in quality of life after receiving shoes (survey beneficiaries)
- Types of opportunities generated by reception of shoes (defined by beneficiaries)
Using a Combination of Indicators to Determine Attribution
As we can see, a pure count of shoes donated doesn't tell us what impact has been generated. It only implies. By also collecting qualitative, outcomes-focused data the organization gets a better idea of the impacts of those shoes for people who before did not have them. They could also measure income level before and after the shoes (for adults), or measure number of school days attended (for children).
The best indicators help organizations also make clear a clear attribution between the intervention (shoes given) and the impact(s) generated. In this example, there are many other variables that could contribute to an increase in income level or school days attended. Gathering qualitative data, specifically asking to what extent the shoes had to do with any observed changes in those areas would help to increase the level of attribution the organization might report.
Read More: Foundations of Social Impact Assessment