An EU-funded team of researchers has offered a new approach to evaluating sustainable regional development. The study sought to better incorporate and structure the multi-stakeholder debate and demands on related decision-making.

Sustainable development policies and related programmes have been focused on the environmental pillar of sustainable development. Research indicates that many policymakers and evaluators have not properly understood many critical areas of this topic and its significance. As such, a new approach is needed to ensure all stakeholders can adequately influence policy development in this crucial area.

The 'Methods and tools for evaluating the contribution of cohesion policies to sustainable regional development (SRD)' (SRDTOOLS) project addressed the need to better integrate the three pillars of sustainable development (economic, social and environmental) and achieve more consistency in the methods used to evaluate relevant parameters. Project partners thus focused on the objectives of regional policy and its programme design and implementation to develop tools that can support the decision-making process in terms of sustainable regional development (SRD).

A major project outcome was redefining what needs to be evaluated in order to identify relevant trade-offs and highlight the key issues for policy development. SRDTOOLS proposed the reinterpretation of the three pillars of sustainable development in terms of the four capitals (4C) model, where the social pillar distinguishes between human and social capital. The extended scope makes it possible to apply the concept of sustainable development as non-declining capital stock.

With the support of regional case studies, researchers were able to identify trade-offs between the natural, manufactured, social and human capitals. This approach enables a better examination of the degree to which regions are in fact following a sustainable development path. In this way, researchers are better equipped to evaluate the contribution of cohesion policies to related efforts. The case studies confirmed that the trade-offs approach was effective in clarifying key issues, confirming their significance and helping to distinguish between small and big issues.

A KerBabel Deliberation matrix ('DM' or 'Cube') was developed to support the decision making process by putting forward the options or scenarios for evaluation. The strength of this tool also lies in helping users to more easily describe what the impact of an option meant or could mean to them. This and other project outcomes can be used in further research to examine different impacts in future scenarios.

Information Source: Result from the EU funded FP6-POLICIES programme

Source: CORDIS