To explain and achieve the objectives set by programmes and projects in which stakeholders (institutions, governments, economic operators, companies and persons) engage to improve their livelihoods and habitats, these stakeholders need high-quality visioning, monitoring and evaluation instruments which provide them with a set of harmonised value and risk elements, and reliable data on which to base their decisions.

The interest in an eco-system is related to the system's capability to provide services (stocks and flow values) for its dwellers and other stakeholders. Moreover, the system operations and maintenance also gives rise to costs and externalities, and the life support services may also be vulnerable to seasonal change or shocks, including those caused by mankind.

Indicators: Policy-based or Capital-based?

An Indicator is a quantitative or qualitative factor or variable that provides a simple and reliable means to measure achievement, to reflect the changes connected to an intervention, or to help assess the performance of a development actor[1].

One driver in establishing indicators sets is meeting the information needs of policies. For instance in the context of sustainable development, [2] indicated that it has been relatively rare that such policies have been based on an explicitly defined conceptual framework. In many cases the policy framework determines the indicators, and hence indicators are potentially biased towards particular policy priorities at the expense of other aspects of sustainable development.

A benefit of policy based indicators is that they may be effective for communication by policy makers.

A drawback to indicators that are strongly aligned with a policy framework is that changes in the policy framework can mean that indicators have to follow suit[2] (page 4).

Capital based indicators take the perspective of a society's total capital base which is seen to comprise the five individual stocks: financial capital, produced capital, natural capital, human capital and social capital, and it distinguishes stock and flow indicators.

From Value and Risks to Indicators

Value choices and risk awareness are an integral part of a Social Order. As the complexity of this social order increases, it is beneficial to make the value choices and risk drivers explicit, for example in order to support consensus finding processes, or to support some form of social-system re-engineering.

Value choices and risk awareness are a key input for establishing a decision frame [3]. In many cases, membership of a group will imply responsibilities by the member to disclose selected performance details to all members of the group. In such case it is recommended that the group provides clear guidelines to its members, in order to minimize the members' burden.

Collective action in this area is insufficient [4]: there are many proposals for indicators, yet consensual guidance to companies, agencies and individuals is missing.

External reporting by social entities

For a general introduction on external reporting for organisations, the reader is referred to GRI reporting framework [5]. GRI offers a sustainability reporting framework that can be used by any organization to report on its economic, environmental, and social performance:

  • economic: The economic dimension of sustainability concerns an organisation’s direct and indirect impacts on the economic circumstances of its stakeholders and on economic systems at the local, national and global levels.
  • environmental: The environmental dimension of sustainability concerns an organisation’s impacts on living and non-living natural systems, including ecosystems, land, air and water.
  • social: The social dimension of sustainability concerns an organisation’s impacts on the social systems within which it operates. Social performance can be gauged through an analysis of the organisation’s impacts on stakeholders at the local, national, and global levels. In some cases, social indicators influence the organisation’s intangible assets, such as its human capital and reputation.

Country Economic Reporting

The Global Reporting Initiative provides a reporting framework, guidelines and sector supplements for individual participants in an economy. These participants affect the capital stocks and flows of the countries where they operate.

For indicators and reporting at the scale of countries (and society), the reader is referred to the European System of National and Regional Accounts (ESA 95) which offers an harmonisation of methodology and precision and accuracy of the concepts, definitions, classifications and accounting rules which we will further extend in order to arrive at a consistent, reliable and comparable quantitative description of the sustainability and progress of stakeholder interactions.

Other authoritative material that must be harmonized includes:
* ESA95: European System of Accounts
* Eurostat: Sustainable Development Indicators
* Stocks and Flows

The European Union, in a recent report, announces the extension of Country Economic Reporting to include also environmental and social indicators [11].

Measurement, Reporting & Verification in Public-Private Spaces

Some form of alignment is desirable between what national statistics organisations collect, what corporations report about, and the government policy verification needs.

For a discussion on this topic, …

Indicators for Achievement by Social Entities

Indicators are the quantitative or qualitative variables that provide a simple and reliable means to measure achievement, to reflect the changes connected to an intervention, or to help assess the performance of an organization or object system against the stated outcome, and for a period of time. Indicators are needed to monitor progress with respect to inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes, and goals. In complex systems, progress needs to be monitored at all levels of the system to provide feedback on areas of success and areas in which improvement may be required.

Indicators help to express and evaluate the outcomes and performance objectives for the work system (object system), and they help to periodically report on the worksystem's outcomes and performance. The information reported should remain consistent and be compiled and presented in a manner that enables stakeholders using the report to analyze changes in the organization’s performance over time as well as relative to other organizations.


Reporting frameworks such as those of GRI, MDG, KAM[6] contain a large number of indicators for the external stakeholders. In addition many inner-scale performance indicators must be added for the monitoring and evaluation of smaller-scale operations and maintenance.

A dashboard helps to structure indicators that are relevant for a specific stakeholder.

Several international organisations and statistics organisations publish dashboards (and indicator values) for countries.

The balanced scorecard [7] is one much used device for capturing, structuring and communicating knowledge on organisation objectives. It supplements traditional financial measures with criteria that measure performance form the perspective of customers, internal business processes, and learning and growth. A diversified company such as Ingersoll-Rand, for instance, has business unit scorecards linked to the corporate scorecard [8] . A balanced scorecard-based system provides both a template and a common language for idenifying and measuring sources of value, and for assembling and communicating about them in the perspectives customer, process, learning and growth, and financial (shareholders). Linked to the balanced scorecard, the personal scorecard has been introduced by some companies to enable and encourage individuals to set goals for themselves that were consistent with the organization's [9].

For Dashboards that are pertinent to sustainable development, see: http://esl.jrc.it/dc/index.htm

Indicator Groups for Socio-technical Levels

In general, actor perspective indicators could be grouped in accordance with their being concerned with internal or external aspects (value stocks and flows, and risks), or with operational performance (life as usual) or change performance/capability (innovation, learning).

Another grouping dimension is related to the socio-technical level of the indicator's owner. This owner's decision making can influence the stocks and flows that underly or influence the indicator.

Taking into consideration the social architecture (Actor Atlas) and the claims on resources it implies, it seems appropriate to align indicator choice with socio-technical level as follows:

  • Macro: capital based indicators, stock and flow, especially natural and financial capital, human capital, social capital, produced capital: infrastructure
  • Meso: sector specific human, social and produced capital
  • Micro: indicators that are aligned with "competitive targets"
  • Pico: human well-being indicators

At macro and meso levels, capital based indicators are recommended, while indicators at micro and pico levels will be more subjective, compare to the policy-based indicators.

Relevance to Development and Management of Change

A Results-Based Monitoring and Evaluation approach [10] enhances the decisional effectiveness in areas where competing interests complicate planning and execution, as is the case in dynamic networked organisations and development context.

Dashboards may exist both for enterprises and human actants, implicitly or explictly. For these actors, the dashboard is part of the organisational or individual knowledge.

For acceptance by the stakeholders in a network, system functionality must have a demonstratable value. For each adopter the system must satisfy a useful purpose, at an affordable cost and for an acceptable period of time [12].

The interface between dashboard use and system development involves two important events:

  • Performance Alert: In the case that the worksystem performance is (expected to become) insufficient, a performance alert is sent to the System Development stage where its scope is assessed, and where an initiative is started to address it. The alert should be sufficiently detailed and concrete to allow for a proper response.
  • Solution Acceptance: After system development has delivered and installed a solution, this solution must be accepted in the System Operation and Maintenance stage, and Evaluation & Monitoring must enact suitable performance measurement to evaluate the effectiveness of the solution.

Besides information on the facility or assets, the products, process and production plans, the worksystem information system must also keep information on the decision frame and the measured performances of the worksystem.

Dashboard articulation for a stakeholder helps in identifying change options for the stakeholder in the (value) chain re-engineering. Retained solution options can then be analysed using the value-based requirements engineering techniques [13] as illustrated in [14].

Evaluation & Monitoring in Nested Systems

Worksystems with a state-of-practice complexity have both:

  • a complex layout, this is the location of equipment within departments, and the disposition of departments upon a site
  • a complex organisation: the clustering of roles and responsibilities in organization units, and the allocation of these organization units to persons

The workspace subdivision can be repeated for any level of embodiment, from single machines and persons, to complex supply chains and ecosystems. In these cases, the concerted use of scoreboards, the accumulation of stock, performance and outcome data and their presentation in dashboards and reports are among the critical capabilities of result-oriented governance, managment and operations, as well as facts-based decision making.

In the case that a decision is required about a certain section of the livelihood or habitat, then it is of critical importance that the appropriate decision frames and their data-sources have been established.

In such case, the use of collective decision frames [3] will enhance collaborative diagnostics and collaborative therapeutics skills.

1. Independent Evaluation Group, The World Bank Group, The Association for the Development of Education in Africa (Glossary), march 2008, url
2. UNECE, Measuring Sustainable Development, 2009.
4. What are examples of indicators operationalized in sustainable enterprise? Q&A in Linkedin url removed as LinkedIn discontinued its Q&A service
5. Global Reporting Initiative website, http://www.globalreporting.org/
6. Knowledge Assessment Methodology, July 2009, http://www.worldbank.org/kam or http://go.worldbank.org/JGAO5XE940
7. Kaplan. R.S., D. P. Norton (1993) The Balanced Scorecard - Measures that Drive Perform-ance. Harvard Business Review, January/February 1993.
8. Kaplan. R.S., D. P. Norton (2006) How to Implement a New Strategy Without Disrupting Your Organization. Harvard Business Review, March 2006.
9. Kaplan. R.S., D. P. Norton (1996) Using the Balanced Scorecard as a Strategic Manage-ment System. Harvard Business Review, January/February 1996.
10. Zall Kusek, J., R.C. Rist (2004) Ten Steps to a Results- Based Monitoring and Evaluation System; A Handbook for Development Practitioners, The International Bank for Recon-struction and Development / The World Bank, Washington D.C.
11. Council of the European Union (June, 2006) Renewed EU Sustainable Development Strategy. URL http://register.consilium.europa.eu/pdf/en/06/st10/st10117.en06.pdf
12. Rechtin, E., M.W. Maier (1997) The Art of Systems Architecting, CRC Press.
13. Gordijn, J., J.M. Akkermans (2003) Value-based requirements engineering: exploring innovative e-commerce ideas. Requirements Engineering (8) pp. 114-134
14. Jan B. M. Goossenaerts, Alexander T. M. Zegers, and Jan M. Smits (2009) A multi-level model-driven regime for value-added tax compliance in erp systems. Computers in Industry, 60(9):709–727