The Progress Markers Facilitation Guide provides instructions and helpful tips on conducting an exercise to identify progress markers for any program or activity where the results occur in the medium to long-term, but where there is a need to track and report on efforts in the short-term. A progress marker is any smaller anticipated action that contributes to an overarching outcome or desired goal. Progress markers may also be any known milestones or tipping points. Breaking down a larger goal or outcome into smaller progress markers can help teams build momentum and track progress, while also supporting adaptive management by pinpointing potential drivers or barriers to success.
The Progress Markers exercise utilizes a journey mapping approach to layout sequential stakeholder or partner actions and identifies key actions that signify a tipping point or result that can be measured and reported against before more tangible, long-term changes are reportable. In addition to tracking and reporting on short-term gains needed to achieve long-term change, establishing progress markers can also help activity design and implementation by supporting planning for stakeholder engagement, identifying pain points, articulating necessary and sufficient efforts to achieve desired results, and providing documentation of the current model of engagement.
Headlight has implemented the Progress Markers exercise with a variety of clients, including GSMA. In particular, we have worked with the Digital Identity team to articulate the pathway for a successful digital identity solution use case in various markets. As a result of the workshops, the DI team identified key actions that move along the process of identifying, testing, and commercially rolling out a digital identity solution that can achieve social impact. Key progress markers that were common across most market pathways were identified and the team is now using their Progress Markers Map and a tracking tool to monitor changes in activity and project implementation. The information captured in the ongoing tracker allows Project Managers to quickly see any stalled use cases, which they can then report to their donors and work together with stakeholders to brainstorm potential next steps in light of the barriers. Teams have reported having a clearer understanding and articulation of this newer area of their work.
In addition to our work with specific clients, Headlight also incorporates the Progress Markers exercise into our Systems Based Theory of Change (SBTOC) tools and processes. By building in progress markers or tipping points onto an expanded and whole system approach to one of the more traditional deliverables in development, we hope to help our clients not only articulate evidenced causal pathways to the long-term desired outcomes of their work, but also have a better understanding of how to ensure the work continues until it reaches a sustainable tipping point.