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Sustainability indicators: a learning tool for adaptive local governance

Principal researcher

Umaporn Pupphachai

Type of research



Prof. Gert de Roo

Dr. Christian Zuidema


Currently,the term ‘sustainability’ is increasingly being argued and measuring sustainability is an argumentative issue. However, there are several problems of assessing sustainability; major problems are firstly a vague and abstract meaning and secondly a long-term goal and lastlyour socio-ecological system isan ever-changing, dynamic and complex system. Therefore,taking a comprehensive approach towards sustainability requires a redefinition and well organized of policy-making.Sustainability cannot be treated purely as a matter of implementing policy objectives. It is about learning to deal with systemic and long-term issues,which calls essentially for a more adaptive and flexible perspective of management. Assessing progress towards sustainability, we require an interactive tool that could monitor the competency of existing policies and at the same time initiate new policies. Thus, sustainability indicators (SIs) could be used as a policy-learning device, which performs a two-way reaction. We argue for a reconsideration of indicators as evidence in adjusting the short-term policies and at the same time they are altered by the error or success of the policies. We do so by seeing SIs as a tool in monitoring, adjusting and learning in what can be called on adaptivelearningsystem.

Last modified:03 March 2014 2.33 p.m.