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Tool 6.1: Programme Monitoring Dashboard

@ UNICEF/UN0212773


This tool will provide suggestions on how to build a programme monitoring dashboard, which can serve a useful function in providing a centralized view of relevant key performance indicators in real-time.This information will allow stakeholders to assess progress in the implementation of the Education Sector Plan (ESP) by monitoring progress of key performance indicators (KPIs).


Creating a programme monitoring dashboard can be useful to monitor implementation progress and in representing this data in a visual way. You can then quickly identify where progress has been made (and which key performance indicators have been met or on target to be met) as well as areas that may need more attention. Such a visual presentation can also be used more effectively to inform key stakeholders of where you are in the implementation stage as well as being used for advocacy purposes.

Tool Objectives

When to Use this Tool

This tool can be used during the iterative monitoring and evaluation cycle of the ESP process to monitor progress of the KPIs and can be updated as part of national sectoral review processes.

Key Information

Understanding what a data dashboard is

A data dashboard can be defined as a “visual display of the most important information needed to achieve one or more objectives, with the data consolidated and arranged on a single screen so the monitored at a glance” (source). Data dashboards typically include several visualizations, such as graphs or other visual representations of data, and minimal text to describe the indicators being displayed on the dashboard. By displaying this information on a single screen, the user can directly compare and draw conclusions from the data “at a glance”. Dashboards are dynamic, with information being regularly refreshed and updated. When appropriately designed and executed, dashboards allow effective tracking of performance in an engaging manner and can also support timely interventions to ensure the implementation process stays on track.

While dashboards can be used to visualize any (quantitative) data, here we are using it for monitoring implementation progress of the ECE subsector of the education sector plan, and as such are referring to it as a programme monitoring dashboard.

Without data to track the implementation, both physical and financial, of the education sector plan and the resulting changes, the programme monitoring dashboard will serve no more purpose than a painter’s canvas that can adorn one’s wall. Therefore, the question of data related to early childhood education must be asked from the outset. This process begins as part of the Education Sector Analysis process and the need to then link to your country’s education management information system (EMIS) and/or information from the ministries of finance and/or public service, amongst others. It is necessary that this issue be addressed during the strategic thinking and design of the plan, as addressing the lack of data and/or the inadequacies of the EMIS vis-a-vis pre-primary education can and should be an integral part of the implementation plan and long-term systematic data collection for ECE. 

The issues below are examples that should be raised:

  • Is ECE-related data included in the EMIS?
  • What ECE-related data are missing in the EMIS that could be included?
  • What data are missing that cannot or might not be suitable to include in the EMIS?
  • What data are available at the sub-national level that can be used in monitoring?
  • What quality and early learning assessment data are available?


A dashboard offers an elevated view of the implementation plan’s key metrics. These are elements that decision-makers can use to track performance and identify potential issues that may arise during implementation.

Although dashboards and reports complement each other and communicate important information to the audience, dashboards differ from reports in how the information is communicated. Effective dashboards give an indication on progress while flagging what is on track and what requires immediate attention. They allow users to monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics so that data-driven decisions or adjustments can be made as part of the ESP monitoring and review process.

It is important that the monitoring dashboard includes KPIs that can help identify inefficiencies and alert decision-makers/programme managers to make changes to ensure the plan’s objectives and goals are being met. An effective dashboard should be able to identify areas that require immediate action or further attention.

A monitoring dashboard for the ECE subsector could contain the following elements:

  • Monitoring of the results of the plan (output/results/impact)
  • Process monitoring: monitoring the implementation of activities per the annual action plan and timeline of activities
    • Monitoring of physical implementation
    • Monitoring of financial implementation
    • Monitoring of available resources

A monitoring dashboard shared with relevant stakeholders can help them make data-driven decisions. It can also help the government/implementation committee keep its stakeholders updated and connected.

An effective dashboard will eliminate or reduce manual reporting tasks.

Monitoring dashboards are effective because they ultimately save time and effort. While there is some initial work in setting up the dashboard, after this initial investment, it should be fairly easy to input new data to track results. However, metrics need to be correctly designed. To increase the dashboard’s impact, key stakeholders should be able to understand the dashboard report at a glance, even without technical skills

Note that creating a programme monitoring dashboard is an iterative process. In addition to periodically inputting data to refresh the dashboard, the graphic visualization of the KPIs may need to be tweaked to better represent the data or the KPIs you select may not be the best ones to track monitoring of results, in which cases changes to the dashboard will need to be made.

Process monitoring/activity monitoring

Process monitoring is implemented during the initial stages of a project, as its sole purpose is to track the use of inputs and resources and to examine how activities and outputs are delivered. The financial monitoring part helps to measure the financial effectiveness during the implementation and helps to track actual expenditure against the allocated budget. This helps programme managers develop strategies to maximize results with minimum resources.




A first step in building the programme monitoring dashboard is to define the performance indicators that will be used. For a refresher on how to define ECE indicators and how to set crucial targets, please see Tool 3.2 (Criteria, recommendations and checklists: Defining ECE indicators and target setting). These indicators also need to be able to be measured on a regular basis.

You may want to first develop a longer list of potential indicators, then convene a collaborative workshop with the ECE TWG or the subsector coordination group and other key stakeholders to prioritize indicators for inclusion.It is suggested that you should ultimately identify no more than seven indicators to display, and your dashboard is likely to become visually cluttered and therefore ineffective at communicating information “at a glance” (source). In this case, simpler is better, in order to create an effective visual presentation.

In the example we provide in this guide, we make some suggestions for possible performance indicators, but the final decision regarding which KPIs to include will be country-specific and will depend on the priorities of your country.


Additional Resources