Reconceptualizing 'effectiveness' in environmental projects: can we measure values-related achievements?

J Environ Manage. 2014 Jun 15;139:120-34. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2014.02.022. Epub 2014 Mar 28.


There have been recent calls for a shift to an evidence-based paradigm in environmental management, grounded in systematic monitoring and evaluation, but achieving this will be complex and difficult. Evaluating the educational components of environmental initiatives presents particular challenges, because these programs often have multiple concurrent goals and may value 'human outcomes', such as value change, which are intangible and difficult to quantify. This paper describes a fresh approach based on co-creating an entirely new values-based assessment framework with expert practitioners worldwide. We first discuss the development of a generic framework of 'Proto-Indicators' (reference criteria constituting prototypes for measurable indicators), and then demonstrate its application within a reforestation project in Mexico where indicators and assessment tools were localized to enhance context-relevance. Rigorously derived using unitary validity, with an emphasis on relevance, practicability and logical consistency from user perspectives, this framework represents a step-wise advance in the evaluation of non-formal EE/ESD programs. This article also highlights three important principles with broader implications for evaluation, valuation and assessment processes within environmental management: namely peer-elicitation, localizability, and an explicit focus on ethical values. We discuss these principles in relation to the development of sustainability indicators at local and global levels, especially in relation to post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.

Keywords: Assessment; Education for sustainable development; Environmental education; Evaluation; Indicators; Values.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Achievement
  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Education
  • Forests*
  • Humans
  • Mexico