Design of a Quality-of-Life Monitor to Promote Learning in a Multi-Actor Network for Sustainable Urban Development

J. Oldenhuizing, J. de Kraker*, P.J. Valkering

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    Recent studies on indicators of sustainable development at the regional and local level have emphasized the role of indicator sets (or monitors) as learning tools. Development of indicators and their use in monitoring can support learning about the system as input for strategic debates, as well as social learning in terms of developing shared understandings and coordinated action plans. We report on a study with the explicit aim to determine the design criteria and required features of a monitor serving as a multi-actor learning tool for sustainable development, The scope of the investigation was the design of an online neighbourhood monitor for a learning network on sustainable urban development. This monitor is to support learning (exchange and co-creation of knowledge for sustainable development) across the knowledge boundaries between the different actors participating in the network: academics, professional experts, practitioners and local stakeholders. In this study, we derived design criteria from literature on the role of boundary objects in heterogeneous knowledge communities, participatory monitoring, and online communication. These criteria require the monitor to be accessible (to promote participation of all actors), interactive (to support communication and dialogue between all actors) and flexible (to meet the diverse and dynamic needs of all actors involved). Quality-of-Life was preferred over sustainable development as the underlying conceptual framework for the neighbourhood monitor. Quality-of-Life has a great capacity to bridge differences in perspectives between diverse actors and provides ample opportunity to expand learning towards issues of sustainability. We argue that the proposed design of the monitor shows promise in meeting the needs and challenges of multi-actor learning networks for sustainable development and in avoiding pitfalls associated with recent examples, such as dissipation of learning effects and limited uptake. Major conditions for successful implementation of the proposed design are an explicit choice for monitoring-as-learning versus monitoringas-evaluation and a tight connection and interplay between learning and concrete action. The next step should be to test and evaluate the proposed design in an implementation study. 

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)74-84
    Number of pages11
    JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
    Early online date10 Oct 2012
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


    • Boundary object
    • CITY
    • Learning network
    • Neighbourhood monitor
    • POLICY
    • Participatory monitoring
    • Quality-of-Life
    • Sustainable development


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