Indicators for Sustainable Communities: A Strategy Building on Complexity Theory and Distributed Intelligence
Indicators and performance measures have become an important element in policy initiatives relating to sustainability and to the re-invention of government. This article reviews the research and practice of indicator development and use, summarizing several key lessons from this review. One of the key lessons is that to be useful, indicators must be developed with the participation of those who will use and learn from them. The article then proposes a strategy for community indicators based upon the conception that cities are like living organisms functioning as complex adaptive systems. Three types of indicators are needed. System performance indicators are required to provide information to the public about the overall health of a community or region. Policy and program measures are required to provide policy-makers with feedback about how specific programs and policies are working. Rapid feedback indicators are required to assist individuals and businesses to make more sustainable decisions on a day-to-day basis. There is no simple formula for how to develop a system of indicators. Each community and region should develop a system based upon their own circumstances and needs.