In a global setting, the external policy process is very diverse, and SDIs form only one aspect of the information available to decision makers. Without public and media visibility, indicators are unlikely to have major impact on political processes, but organizing an indicator development process that is targeted to the public together and emphasizes communication of the results may increase its impact.
If stakeholder involvement plays a key role at each stage in the process and, most crucially, in the framing stage, the indicators will have legitimacy and credibility that make them valuable for many stakeholders. Such indicators can act as tools for measuring the progress of existing policies and steering further action.
Indicator developers therefore need to embrace inclusive participatory processes, ensuring adequate and appropriate representation of the diverse stakeholder groups and taking into account the resource divides that may exist between them. However, participation should not come at the expense of scientific validity. There may be a case for expert methodological discussions following wide agreement on a particular topic to be addressed.
Many SDI initiatives are salient and scientifically sound but do not have the legitimacy associated with a wide base of a good process. This reflects the trade-offs between processes and products and between salience, credibility, and legitimacy. The most perfect technical SDI might not be useful, and the most useful SDI might not be perfect. Understanding that even the best technical efforts of indicator developers may not be sufficient to ensure that an indicator has policy impact and reflecting this understanding in the emphasis given to the indicator development process may be the best way to increase the chances of having a positive impact on the policy arena.
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