Connecting the Dots: Helpful Frameworks for Measuring Action and Impact (Part 1: The Environment)

When it comes to measuring and demonstrating value, we don't have to reinvent the wheel. Considerable work, thought and testing has gone into advancing many useful frameworks. I'll be devoting a few blogs to looking at some key frameworks that are used out there, starting with environmental frameworks.


Concern about our environmental impact over the past thirty years has led to evolving frameworks that are used to monitor environmental impact.  While many of these have been applied at national and regional levels to measure high-level changes, it can be useful to also consider these frameworks to demonstrate how an organization or program makes an impact.   This is useful for several reasons:


1) It can help you access and make sense of public data collected about the environment.  For instance, British Columbia’s state of the environment is based on the DPSIR framework described below.


2) It can provide a simple way to show where you fit in with the issues, particularly in how your response relates to other action, and what this means in terms of changing human pressure on the environment and the resulting state of the environment. This is particularly helpful if you are steeped in the  technical language and models in the area you work in. Based on my own experience, these are often challenging to communicate to people outside your circle!

Way back in the early 1990s, the OECD set out to standardize what different countries were measuring about the environment in order to make some sense of international progress around environmental issues.  This resulted in the PRESSURE STATE RESPONSE (PSR) framework which is still in use and evolving, and upon which many other frameworks have since been based.  The framework classifies indicators into:



Indicators have been defined for different environmental issues and natural resources in all of these categories.   So in action it looks like this:



and like this:



Since this framework was formulated, others have tweaked it and distinguished new components.  For instance the Driver-Pressure-State-Impact-Response (DPSIR) framework for environmental reporting (used in Europe, and in many other jurisdictions) distinguishes ‘drivers’ from the general classification of ‘pressures’, and also distinguishes ‘impact’ from ‘state’.    But fundamentally it is still based on the model of describing human interactions with the environment by looking at the causes (drivers and pressures) and effects (state and impacts)

To see more examples and to learn more about the PSR framework work, see: OECD Environmental Indicators: Development Measurement and Use. Reference Paper, 2003.  

Here is another useful resource for understanding how these frameworks have been applied in practice.

Here are British Columbia's latest environmental indicators using  the DPSIR framework.


Stay tuned for future blogs that look at frameworks used in social and cultural impact!

blog type: 
Issues & Ideas