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Integrating Methods for Developing Sustainability Indicators to Facilitate Learning and Action

Mark Reed, University of Leeds
Evan D. G. Fraser, University of Leeds
Stephen Morse, University of Reading
Andrew J. Dougill, University of Leeds

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Abstract

Bosselís (2001) systems-based approach for deriving comprehensive indicator sets provides one of the most holistic frameworks for developing sustainability indicators. It ensures that indicators cover all important aspects of system viability, performance, and sustainability, and recognizes that a system cannot be assessed in isolation from the systems upon which it depends and which in turn depend upon it. In this reply, we show how Bosselís approach is part of a wider convergence toward integrating participatory and reductionist approaches to measure progress toward sustainable development. However, we also show that further integration of these approaches may be able to improve the accuracy and reliability of indicators to better stimulate community learning and action. Only through active community involvement can indicators facilitate progress toward sustainable development goals. To engage communities effectively in the application of indicators, these communities must be actively involved in developing, and even in proposing, indicators. The accuracy, reliability, and sensitivity of the indicators derived from local communities can be ensured through an iterative process of empirical and community evaluation. Communities are unlikely to invest in measuring sustainability indicators unless monitoring provides immediate and clear benefits. However, in the context of goals, targets, and/or baselines, sustainability indicators can more effectively contribute to a process of development that matches local priorities and engages the interests of local people.

Key words

sustainability Indicators; community empowerment; stakeholders; local participation
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087