New local compasses for territorial policies

"What matters with new territorial indicators is that they shape and guide public policies".


Publication date

March 8, 2023

For the fifth webinar of the Sufficient Cities series, we welcomed speakers from three French public and private entities: the 27e Région, a French laboratory for public transformation and social innovation, Quadrant Conseil and the Metropolitan administration of Grenoble-Alpes Metropole.

There is no silver bullet to tackle a systemic problem

The 27e Région is running a programme called “New Measures”. It explores different management approaches and tools to be used by those who want to take local decisions that remain within planetary boundaries. According to Jean Laudouar from the laboratory, “there is no magic tool when dealing with a systemic issue like climate change. Indicators and tools are not neutral and represent a particular world view, but they can also be useful to influence policymaking”.

Some local authorities are already re-thinking the way in which they take action. The city of Bourg-en-Bresse in France has carried out a climate change assessment of its municipal budget based on eight criteria. This assessment revealed that only 5.5% of the city’s expenditures for 2022 have a negative impact on the environment while a 13.5% share even impacts it positively. In addition, when the city has access to a loan from a bank, the environmental criteria carries the same weight as the financial criteria. To this end, the City has worked with the Greater Bourg-en-Bresse area and ten voluntary banks to evaluate their environmental policies. 

You can access the brochure (in French), which lists the various tools and approaches, here.

Driven by well-being to shape local policies

The IBEST methodology is the happy end of a long story of people who were unhappy about the way in which data systems represented local data. At the beginning of 2000, the Metropolis of Grenoble, together with the Urban Planning Agency, the City and the University, initiated some reflections on indicators used to monitor public policies. This led to the creation of IBEST which stand for Indicators for Territorial and Sustainable Well-Being.

The main objective was to incorporate the concept of “well-being” into local policies by defining what is valuable, including items that cannot be monetized. Eight dimensions of sustainable well-being have been defined: working conditions, engagement and empowerment, democracy and conditions of living together, time and rhythm, access to basic needs, access and use of public services, health and natural environment.

The indicators have been defined by a diverse team of people using a bottom-up approach with qualitative questionnaires, citizen participation and input from elected officials and business stakeholders. An non-conventional social portrait of the city is developed every five years using the IBEST framework.

The big next step for the IBEST framework and all the alternative tools presented by the 27e Région is to move from observation to evaluation and to shape a new logic of public policy. So far, no alternative tools have challenged and influenced policy makers on a large scale. These new approaches, which put sustainability and well-being at the heart of local (and national) policies, still don’t steer decisions and are not seen as tools for budgetary decisions. Local elected officials would be wise to anticipate the impacts of climate change by starting to integrate new decision indicators before they are forced to do so.

Watch the replay of this webinar HERE