Home Political science The tools of policy formulation
The creation of an 'indicator industry', and the associated codification and institutionalization of indicators, has been decisively fostered by groups advocating the use of their favourite indicators. These groups can alternatively be perceived as 'instrument constituencies' (VoB and Simons 2014), epistemic communities (Haas 1992) or advocacy coalitions (Sabatier 1988). Statisticians, especially at national statistics offices and international organizations, still play a central role in such groups, yet the more recent processes such as the development of community-level and composite sustainability indicators and alternative indicators of progress have seen an increasing involvement of actors outside the government, for example think tanks, NGOs and grassroots community groups (for example, Sebastien and Bauler 2013; Sebastien et al. 2014). Indicator development processes tend to be highly sector-specific, variously led either by users or producers, and often highly international in nature. Depending on their status in policymaking hierarchies, such constituencies of like-minded experts and policy actors not only foster institutionalization of the indicator systems, but also shape the extent to which a sector or an organization develops an 'indicator culture'. Furthermore, the use of especially sustainable development indicators is often confined to an 'inner circle' of indicator producers and the obligated users of the indicators (Rinne et al. 2013), hence breaking the clear-cut distinction between the 'users' and 'producers' of indicators introduced above (for example, Bell et al. 2011; cf. Pinter et al. 2005, p. 18).
Beyond Intended Use: Unanticipated Consequences of Indicators
A central lesson from research on the role of indicators in policymaking is that their policy influence mostly stems not from direct use in policymaking to guide decisions, but instead from the multiple forms of indirect and largely unintended and uncontrollable pathways, best categorized as 'conceptual' and 'political' influence. The following brief survey will focus on three themes that have emerged as central in research concerning the influence of indicators: the theoretical approaches applied for examining influence, the debate on the broader societal impacts of performance indicators, and the 'paradoxes' concerning the use and influence of indicators.
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