An Analysis of the Factors Influencing the Use of Indicators in the European Union

Abstract:
Indicators and indices (I&I) have been popular among a section of the policy and science communities for some years and are often promoted as a vehicle to help make sustainable development a reality. One of the claimed strengths of I&I is their ability to present complex data and trends to policy-makers. It is assumed that I&I can help to make policy and, indeed, management more transparently evidence based; yet this assumption has rarely been tested. This paper describes the results of a research project designed to address this assumption. Three main conclusions were arrived at:

  1. I&I are not static measures that are created and remain constant but instead they change with time as a result of a “natural selection” process;
  2. there is value in a move away from the dominance of a limited number of I&I in policy towards a more diverse set of I&I, but there are many obstacles to achieving this; and
  3. the evidence-based rationality of which I&I are meant to be a constituent does not exist. I&I are but one source of influence among many. Indeed, what is meant by “success” with regard to a policy influence of I&I is debatable.

Introduction

The notion of basing intervention upon a body of evidence which predicts changes that would arise from that intervention has been around for some years. The logic is clear. Given that any intervention will require a “spend” of resource and could have a substantial impact (positive and negative) upon groups within a community, it seems reasonable to know what should be done in order to have the best chance of achieving the desired goals (European Commission 2008). This requires knowledge from research and prior experience and also the requirement to test out a planned intervention on a trial basis before scaling up. After all, the alternative is to imply that interventions should not be evidence based, and this is clearly against the current tide of thinking in public adminis- tration. The logic suggests that evidence-based policy should help with problems such as the following (Sorrell 2007):

  • conflict and confusion over key issues among policy-makers,
  • over-reliance on individual studies which may not have a wider applicability,
  • inadequate accumulation and synthesis of research results and
  • wide-ranging but inconclusive literature reviews that pay insufficient attention to methodological quality. Thus, it can be difficult for policy-makers to separate out the wheat from the chaff.

Taylor and Francis Online Link

Bell, S. and Morse, S. (2011). An analysis of the factors influencing the use of indicators in the European Union Local Environment. 16, 3, pp. 281 – 302.

Surfing the Third Wave: Experiential Reflections on New Working Practices

Abstract:
This paper deals with issues and presents changes in practices relating to the new working as realized in the developing e-working world. The paper begins by reviewing my own experience. This is expressed as anecdote from my diary. Following this, the down- side of e-work is argued to be characterized by atomization and fragmentation and is depicted under four headings: being an e-worker, engaging with work as an e-worker, contextualizing experience as an e-worker, and managing self and work as an e-worker. This section is followed by a brief review of how this downside has been achieved. The paper then goes on to discuss two models for developing the e-work process be- yond the current debacle. The first model is one based on conventional practices and is concentrated on relieving the pressure. This conventional approach is also referred to as the “provision for . . .” model. The model deals with providing technologies and inducements and meeting expenses of e-workers as fragmented elements of the work- force. It is a patchwork quilt of piecemeal planning. The second model, arising from the research behind the paper, involves thinking again—Where might we be? The process develops an “invitation to join . . .” model, focusing on relationships. The paper goes on to describe a process for developing a systemic approach to e-work and non-e-work for large organizations and a means for applying the systemic development of e-work in full, and not just gesture. The paper concludes with an overview of the key learning points emergent from the research to date. Concerning the style of the paper, it is set out in the form of a Kolb learning cycle—this is the overarching methodology applied to the enquiry as a whole.

Open University Link

Bell, S. 2002. Surfing the Third Wave: Experiential Reflections on New Working Practices. Systemic Practice and Action Research. 15, 1, pp. 67 – 82

Smart Cities and M3: Rapid Research, Meaningful Metrics and Co-Design

Abstract:

Smart Cities and M3: Rapid Research, Meaningful Metrics and Co-Design Simon Bell
The research described in this paper is undertaken under the banner of the smart city, a concept that captures the way urban spaces are re-made by the incursion of new technology. Much of smart is centred on converting everyday activities into data, and using this data to generate knowledge mediated by technology. Ordinary citizens, those that may have their lives impacted by the technology, usually are not properly involved in the ‘smartification’ process. Their perceptions, concerns and expectations should inform the conception and development of smart technologies at the same extent. How to engage general public with smart cities research is the central challenge for the Making Metrics Meaningful (MMM) project. Applying a rapid participatory method, ‘Imagine’ over a five-month period (March – July) the research sought to gain insights from the general public into novel forms of information system innovation. This brief paper describes the nature of the accelerated research undertaken and explores some of the themes which emerged in the analysis. Generic themes, beyond the remit of an explicit transport focus, are developed and pointers towards further research directions are discussed. Participatory methods, including engaging with self- selected transport users actively through both picture creation and programmatically specific musical ‘signatures’ as well as group discussion, were found to be effective in eliciting users’ own concerns, needs and ideas for novel information systems.

Springer Link

Bel, S., Benatti, F., Edwards, N. R., Laney, R., Morse, D. R., Piccolo, L. and Zanetti, O. (2017) Smart Cities and M3: Rapid Research, Meaningful Metrics and Co-Design. Systemic Practice and Action Research. DOI 10.1007/s11213-017-9415-x

Groups and Facilitators within Problem Structuring Processes

Abstract:

Groups and facilitators within problem structuring processes Simon Bell
In problem structuring methods, facilitators often ask of themselves questions such as: what makes a ‘good’ problem structuring group (PSG) and indeed what does ‘good’ mean? How can group dynamics be improved and does it matter in terms of the quality of the problem structuring that that group engages in? On the surface these questions seem to be straightforward. Indeed, those who have helped facilitate many participatory workshops will think they intuitively know the answers to these questions; they can, from their professional practice, ‘feel’ which PSGs are doing well and producing novel insights and those which are functioning less well and perhaps generating something that is less imaginative and more routine as a consequence. The intuitive, practice-learned insight will depend upon a rich array of visual signals that become more obvious with experience. This paper asks whether there is value in being much more open and analytical about these questions and answers. If so, then how can we make the unwritten processes and outcomes of PSGs written? Indeed, open to whom? Finally, how much of any insights learned by facilitators should be shared with those engaged in workshops?

Springer Link

Bell, S. and Morse, S. 2013. Groups and facilitators within problem structuring processes. Journal of the Operational Research Society. 64, pp. 959 -972

Groups and Indicators in Post-Industrial Society

Abstract:

Groups and Indicators in Post-Industrial Society Simon BellIndicators 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; con- tract 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.

Wiley Online Link

Bell, S. and Morse, S. 2014. Groups and Indicators in Post-Industrial Society. Sustainable Development. 22, pp. 145 – 157.

Better Outcomes for People with Learning Disabilities – Transforming Care

Better Outcomes for People With Learning Disabilities Transforming Care Using Communication Technology Adam Hoare

 A project exploring the use of communication technology in support of person-centred care for people with learning disabilities

A collaboration with people, their families, carers, practitioners, technologists, academics and charities in pursuit of new models of care that utilise communication technology. Taking a practice-led approach to the development of the technology and considering the evidence required to demonstrate outcomes. The goal-to produce a transferable approach to evolving practice in cooperation with technology as a continuous learning process.

This was a £1m project funded by the Small Business Research Initiative in health administered by InnovateUK and Health Enterprise East.

SBRI Health

The project brought together a wide range of stakeholders in the support and care of people with learning disabilities to see how technology could form part of a person-centred approach to care provision.

Project Partners

Project Lead: Red Embedded Systems Ltd – provides v-connect, a video communications service. www.v-connect.co.uk

The v-connect service

Technology Partner: Rescon Ltd – provides Lincus, a data capture, storage and analytics tool.

Rescon Technologies

Care Provider: Hft – a charity supporting people with learning disabilities and their families.

Hft

Commissioner of Social Services: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council – a local authority covering 310,000 people in the West Midlands.

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Health Commissioner: Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG – Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group is a membership organisation involving 100 GP practices serving around 547,400 patients across the Sandwell and West Birmingham area. www.sandwellandwestbhamccg.nhs.uk

Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG

Service Development and Transformation: Changing Our Lives – a charity working with disabled people of all ages and backgrounds to deliver solutions to each particular need, and strive to achieve positive, individual-focused outcomes around rights, health and social inclusion.

Changing Our Lives

National Disabilities Charity: The DLF at Shaw Trust – The DLF brings together comprehensive knowledge of assistive technology with expertise of practitioners to provide information, advice, training and business tools. Working within the Shaw Trust, one of the largest, national third sector providers of welfare to work and social care programmes, the DLF can draw on the direct experience of people with learning disabilities and their community supporters.

Disability Living Foundation at Shaw Trust

Evaluation and Action Research Partner: The Bayswater Institute seeks to help organisations integrate human and social considerations with economic, structural and technical ones in the design and development of organisations and work.

Bayswater Institute

This project followed several years of developing communication technology in collaboration with practice and developing an approach to evaluation and evidence generation that would support its continued sustainable use. An example publication:

A Socio-technical approach to Evidence Generation in the Use of Video Conferencing in Care Delivery

Expert Support

Janet Cobb – an independent health consultant with considerable experience in learning disabilities.

David Atkinson – an independent consultant nurse and co-developer of the Health Equalities Framework.

Better Outcomes for People with Learning Disabilities – Transforming Care Project Overview

BOLD-TC Project Overview (PDF Link)

DOI 10.13140/RG.2.2.29687.52647

Towards an Understanding of How Policy Making Groups Use Indicators

Abstract:

Towards an Understanding of How Policy Making Groups Use Indicators Simon BellGroupthink is a known weakness leading to a number of problems relating primarily to false senses of consensus. But, positive group ‘wisdom’ is an ideal which many aspire to make happen but few manage to achieve in practice. The mystery of the group comes at a number of levels and raises various issues. What is the relative importance of how groups assemble? How they are motivated? The value of inducement? How can group work be assessed and how is a ‘good’ group identified? How is positive and not negative group working achieved? How is group working linked to what the group achieves? In the area of policy use of indicators the function of the group becomes more critical. In an age of transparency in decision making and calls for more evidence-based policy, the importance of good group work is becoming vital if the project is to succeed. Based on research undertaken around the European Union between 2009 and 2010 this paper explores some of these questions by providing a series of ‘rich pictures’ of indicator use, the meanings ascribed to the pictures by the group members and some insights regarding the dynamics of the groups that rest behind them and how this may have influenced the stories told by the pictures. We argue that in many ways the pictures represent a window to the understanding of the groups use of indicators.

Science Direct Link

Bell, S. and Morse, S. 2013. Towards an understanding of how policy making groups use indicators. Ecological Indicators. 35. pp. 13 – 23.

Being, Engaging, Contextualizing and Managing Matrix — a Means for Nonspecialists to Assess Group Dynamics? Embedding Technology in Practice

Abstract:

Being, Engaging, Contextualizing and Managing Matrix — a Means for Nonspecialists to Assess Group Dynamics? Embedding Technology in Practice Simon BellIn April 1999, academics from the Systems Department at the Open University in UK devised a matrix for assessing third‐level systems students—the matrix was based upon systemic practitioner behaviours taught in the course. It was based upon earlier methods that sought to understand and assess student progress based upon evidence of changing behavioural traits rather than the expression of learned responses or ‘right’ answers. This was the beginning of the being, engaging, contextualizing and managing (BECM) matrix. The European Union‐funded research project called Policy Influence of Indicators (POINT) made use of BECM as part of a process for exploring ways in which groups make use of indicators in several domains. This paper tells the story of how BECM was used in the POINT project to gain an understanding of group behaviour by observation of four segregated but linked qualities.

Wiley Online Link

Bell, S. and Morse, S. 2011. Being, Engaging, Contextualizing and Managing Matrix—a Means for Nonspecialists to Assess Group Dynamics? Embedding Technology in Practice. Systems Research and Behavioural Science. DOI: 10.1002/sres.1088.

 

Towards an Effective Multi-Stakeholder Consultation Process: Applying the Imagine Method in Context of Abu Dhabi’s Education Policy

Abstract:

Towards an Effective Multi-Stakeholder Consultation Process: Applying the Imagine Method in Context of Abu Dhabi’s Education Policy Simon BellThis paper is concerned with the many interleaving issues that emerge when engaging multiple stakeholders in decision-making. Whilst recognising the intrinsic value of group work and keeping in mind the numerous issues that obstruct group work (in- cluding multiple roles for participants, bias due to domination and distortion emerging from uneven group inputs), we applied the Imagine method to propose a new framework— the ‘Multiple Formation Consultation Framework’ (MFCF)—for organising effective multi-stakeholder consultations along the Policy Sciences Framework. Our proposed framework was applied in the context of education policy in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, where 24 small group formations were tasked and assessed in a systemic manner. Evidence from the exercise suggests that: (1) when moving participants from heterogeneous to homogenous groups, the working of the groups became more focused and the outcomes gained greater clarity in terms of the thinking of group members. (2) Yet, when groups moved from homogenous formations to heterogeneous, they became more inquisitive and explored broader aspects of the tasks at hand. (3) A repeat of the process over 2-day period where different members of the groups experience both homogenous and heterogeneous formations back and forth (in order to capture the unique value emerging from each composition) have led to more efficient and effective working and outcomes of the groups.

Springer Link

Mahroum, S., Bell, S., Al-Saleh, Y. and Yassin, N. (2016) Towards an Effective Multi-Stakeholder Consultation Process: Applying the Imagine Method in Context of Abu Dhabi’s Education Policy. Systemic Practice and Action Research. 29, pp. 335 – 353. DOI 10.1007/s11213-016-9367-6

Imagine Coastal Sustainability


Abstract:

Imagine Coastal Sustainability
 Simon BellSince 2000 Coastal Area Management Programmes (CAMPs) supported by UNEP Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP) and the Priority Actions Programme Regional Activity Centre (PAP/RAC) have been engaging local communities in assessment of their coastal sustainability. The Methods used since 2000 have been based upon an evolving methodology which is now called Imagine.
In 2010 The CAMP Levante de Almeria began. “Imagine the future of our coast” is the slogan selected for this project which is intended to turn this area of southern Spain into a sustainability laboratory. The CAMP Levante de Almeria project is a test and a practical demonstration of how to implement Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) concepts in Spain in compliance with the ICZM Protocol (the seventh protocol in the framework of the Barcelona Convention). CAMP acts technically, environmentally and socially as a means to design and implement new practices, relating these to vertical and horizontal coordination between local and regional administration and public participation in decision-making processes related to the coastal zone. The fundamental objective of the project is to achieve wide scale agreement on the sustainable development of the coast.
Drawing upon the history of the various CAMP projects, this paper explores progress made so far in the application of the Imagine methodology in CAMP Levante de Almeria and, by contrasting it with sum- mary observations emerging from earlier Imagine applications in Malta, Lebanon, Algeria, Slovenia and Cyprus draws conclusions on the value of engaging coastal communities in sustainability self- assessment.

Science Direct Link

Bell, S., Correa Pena, A., Prem, M. (2013). Imagine coastal sustainability. Ocean and Coastal Management, 83, pp. 39 – 51.