Programming Essentials, Monitoring & Evaluation
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Last edited: July 18, 2013

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What is baseline data and how is such data collected?

  • Baseline data are critical reference points for assessing changes.
  • Baseline data is used as a starting point for gauging progress towards the goal and objectives and measuring the level and direction of change. It establishes a basis for comparing the situation before and after an intervention and making inferences as to the effectiveness of the project.
  • Baseline data should include the kind of information that would be appropriate for measuring changes in accordance with the objectives of the programme or intervention.

For a programme to train service providers, data on providers’ knowledge, attitudes and practices might be collected from a KAP survey, and information about the experiences of women seeking services might be collected from interviews.

For an awareness raising campaign, the target population’s current level of awareness might be measured using questionnaires.

  • Baseline data can be quantitative or qualitative or a combination of both.

Though the situation analysis and needs assessment can provide some information that can serve as a baseline, they are not the same thing.







Questions to ask about a baseline plan

  • Does the baseline data describe the situation prior to the intervention?
  • Was it collected (will it be collected) within a timeframe close enough to the intervention so that meaningful conclusions can be reached regarding changes measured? There is no standard, recommended timeframe for meaningful, baseline data. The value of data for gauging possible change depends greatly on the context and environment. In a community that has witnessed rapid demographic change, data even a year old may not be useful as a baseline for measuring change.
  • Does the information describe the situation and measure factors (knowledge, attitudes, demographics, practices, skills) that the objectives address?
  • Does the data accurately reflect the situation for the target population? If taken from a sample, can meaningful inferences be made about the target population?

What kind of baseline data is necessary, useful, and practical to collect?

  • Keep in mind that baseline data should be appropriate for measuring changes with respect to the objectives and goals of the intervention. The collection of baseline data should be carefully targeted to facilitate this measurement, not to address every issue.
  • Programmes should aim to collect baseline data relevant to assessing their projects and interventions, and not overwhelm themselves with additional information.
  • Examples of types of baseline data that could be collected include:
    • Incidence and prevalence of various forms of violence against women and girls
    • Knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAP) around gender and violence against women (using knowledge attitudes and practices surveys or focus group discussions) to asses individual and community level norms.
    • Perceptions regarding accessibility and quality of services (women and providers)
    • Laws and policies addressing various forms of violence against women
    • Community level awareness around the existence and implementation of laws and policies, and the human rights framework
    • Infrastructure, commodities and protocols in place (e.g. at police stations and health care facilities) for addressing cases of violence against women
    • Number of women survivors accessing health care and other (e.g. social, legal, economic) services
    • Number of women accessing police services for domestic violence or sexual assault; number of reports filed; number of cases brought to trial; percentage of cases resulting in a conviction
(Bott, Guedes and Claramunt, 2004)

*It is not always necessary or feasible for organizations to conduct extensive baseline studies. Keep in mind that baseline data can also be collated from existing sources

Prevalence data on various forms of violence against women for example have been collected by government, non-governmental, advocacy, service and research entities at the national and local levels.

If such baseline data is important for the project’s monitoring and evaluation framework, a first step should be identifying existing and available information sources, including surveys and service data.

Illustrative Baseline Surveys:

Southern African Development Community Gender Protocol Barometer Baseline Studies. These baseline studies have been conducted for Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and include a chapter on gender-based violence.  They are available in English from Genderlinks.

United Nations Inter-agency Task force on Violence against Women (coordinated by UNFPA and DAW). Ten country pilot baseline assessments for Burkina Faso, Fiji, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Paraguay and Rwanda.  Available in English from the Inter-agency Network on women and Gender Equality.

Young Men Initiative for Prevention of Gender-Based Violence Baseline Research Technical Briefs (CARE and ICRW, 2009).  Available in English for Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia.