Indicators define our world. We are constantly measured and assessed. Perhaps the most important indicator in current use is Gross Domestic Product or GDP. It is the measure of a nation's success and can be key to its ability to borrow money and appear internationally credible. This paper is set against the current debate ‘Beyond GDP’ begun in November 2007 with the conference hosted by the European Commission, European Parliament, Club of Rome, OECD and WWF. The initiative, with its five actions, recognizes weaknesses in the ways in which indicators of all kinds are collected and presented, and attempts to improve the indicator world, but is the answer to effective information for policy formulation hidden in the articulation of indicators? Maybe indicator use is a function of the ways in which stakeholders are engaged in their use? Our conjecture is that indicator use is little understood and that this use dynamic can be better understood.
In this paper, the authors write from the perspective of their work undertaken in the European Union funded Framework 7 project ‘Policy Influence of Indicators’ (POINT; contract no 217207), which began in 2008. A major element of the project involved a number of group workshops designed to elicit viewpoints regarding the use of indicators (including sustainable development indicators) in sustainable development policy at EU and member-state levels.
The paper outlines some emergent hypotheses and hints at how group approaches to indicators can be foreseen and some challenges for indicator use policy for the future. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.