In the last four years, Beyond GDP indicators have rapidly risen up the political agenda and enjoyed greater public awareness. High profile initiatives have included nef’s Happy Planet Index, launched in 2006, the EU’s Beyond GDP initiative – starting with the Beyond GDP conference in 2007, the OECD’s Measuring the Progress of Societies project, and in 2009, the publication of the recommendations of the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, led by economists Stiglitz, Sen and Fitoussi.
Despite a growing number of critiques of GDP, and the emergence of an impressive array of alternative indicators, GDP maintains a central place amongst policy makers, planning offices, media and other target groups. Some data on what may be considered Beyond GDP indicators are being collected by official statistics offices, but they appear not to be considered in policy making or are given a peripheral role.
The central assumption of the project is that indicators, if effectively embedded in the policy making process, are an effective transmission mechanism to connect research and policy. The aim of the project is therefore to enhance and speed up both the development and the effective use of indicators that can balance the use of GDP so as to support the sustainable development policy process in the EU.
Ideally, indicator users need to be aware of the knowledge that exists, and vice versa indicator producers need to be aware of the context(s) in which the indicators will be used. Indicators should be developed as part of an interactive process with multiple feedbacks that ensure that user demands are taken up in the production of alternative indicators. Besides this knowledge gap, it needs also to be understood as part of a change process, in which one has to overcome various other barriers that prevent the existing research from being acted on.
The BRAINPOoL project approaches this problem as a mismatch between demand and supply and aims to solve this via action research and knowledge brokerage activities. This is done by:
• Structuring the research reservoir on Beyond GDP indicators by synthesising existing overviews of Beyond GDP indicators, and assessing the degree to which they have been taken up in policy making;
• Increasing the understanding of the user context of Beyond GDP indicators;
• Stimulating user-producer interactions by organising meetings, discussions and workshops and improving the relation between users and producers at different levels;
• Consolidating and structuring a follow-up beyond the duration of BRAIN POoL by establishing institutional structures and/or feeds into existing ones in such a way that interactions between indicator producers and users will be sustained.
Throughout the project linkages will be established with relevant target groups, such as policy makers on different levels, statistical offices, and planning agencies.
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