European Practice and Experience
Evaluating Sustainable Development series
Edited by Clive George and Colin Kirkpatrick
Chapter 2: The Long and Winding Road of Sustainable Development Evaluation
Peter Hardi Any way you’ll never know The many ways I’ve tried . . . The Beatles I. INTERPRETING SUSTAINABILITY The focus of this chapter is the need for a common interpretation of sustainable development (SD) in the context of evaluation. The starting assumption is that evaluation, its content, methods and results, will change with the diﬀerences in the deﬁnition of SD. In other words, the evaluation as a process is not independent of the content: it depends on and changes with the deﬁnition of SD. A capacity building project has the aim to inﬂuence decision-making in favour of SD, and its goal to make a consistent impact presupposes a common interpretation of SD. Or does it? The diﬃculty is that there is no standard and/or scientiﬁc deﬁnition of SD accepted across the board in science and in political/development practice. Unfortunately, there are several hundreds of diﬀerent deﬁnitions and interpretations of SD world-wide. For better orientation, these deﬁnitions and interpretations can be grouped in a few clusters,1 and the ﬁrst objective is to present these clusters. Four main clusters that cover the vast majority of SD deﬁnitions will be discussed. These clusters are the following: ● ● ● SD as a lifestyle (more narrowly, consumption) issue, rooted in the discussion of SD as a system boundary issue; SD as a process issue that is characteristic of every transition process, rooted either in the more general discussion of equilibrium or in a discussion of SD...
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