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Developing indicators for sustainable and performance-based management

Worldwide there is a trend towards an increased use of indicators to monitor development and track progress. This is evident at all levels and is reflected in the proliferation of indicator reports in recent years. Indicators quantify and simplify phenomena, and help us understand and make sense of complex realities. Within natural resource management their greatest strength is in the way they can help us assess resource status and monitor performance effectiveness. To be most meaningful, a monitoring programme should provide insights into cause-and-effect relationships between environmental or socio-economic stressors and the anticipated ecosystem responses and subsequent social and economic outcomes.

As the linked resources on this page highlight reviewers of effective indicator reporting processes highlight the importance of using a conceptual framework and models to guide the development of a set of indicators. These frameworks and models provide a formal way of thinking about a topic area and help us build a coherent set of indicators for any particular system. They help to ensure the selection of indicators is relevant and balanced, and illustrate the complicated links between indicators. They also provide a useful device for organising and reporting on indicators in a structured and meaningful way. The absence of a framework can result in the generation of an eclectic mix of indicators, with no clear rationale for their selection.

You may also be interested in a related page in the knowledge management section with links on how best to develop conceptual models. Another related page in this section provides a number of links outlining how to develop programme-based outcomes models, also called intervention logic models.