Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Social Monitoring and Reporting in Europe

In this guest blog, Heinz-Herbert Noll and Catrin Berger of the German Social Indicators Research Centre of GESIS-Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences, present the results for the e-Frame project to conduct a comprehensive stocktaking of social monitoring and reporting initiatives, leading to a report, a new web portal and an online database.

As part of the EU FP7 project e-Frame – European Framework for Measuring Progress the German Social Indicators Research Centre (ZSi) of GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences has taken stock of social monitoring and reporting activities currently going on in Europe. The results are available in terms of a “Stocktaking Report on Social Monitoring and Reporting in Europe” (Noll/Berger 2014) as well as an online-database, which is accessible via a new web portal “Social Monitoring and Reporting in Europe”.

The stocktaking covers social monitoring activities in terms of well-being indicator sets or indicator systems and composite indices of well-being as well as social reporting activities in terms of comprehensive social reports and reports that at least cut across various life domains. Also included are relevant current projects and initiatives addressing well-being, progress and sustainable development issues. Activities in the field of sustainable development are only taken into account as far as issues of “social sustainability” are covered. The focus is clearly put at activities at supranational and national level, activities at sub-national levels, like regions or local communities, are not taken into account.

The Social Monitoring and Reporting in Europe – Database resulting from the stocktaking work provides basic information on ca. 230 activities as yet and will be continuously updated in the future. For each activity the database provides information on the following a number of characteristics.

A web-interface allows easy and comfortable online access to the database via different search options, which allow users to make use of a free text search tool or to search by selecting specific countries, groups of countries, supranational institutions and types of activities by clicking boxes in various dropdown lists. There is also an option available to select countries via an interactive map.

Stocktaking Report on Social Monitoring and Reporting in Europe
The “Stocktaking Report on Social Monitoring and Reporting in Europe” (Noll/Berger 2014) provides a systematic overview of the variety of social monitoring and reporting activities currently going on in Europe, focusing on comprehensive reports and monitoring instruments. It covers activities at (supranational) European Level as well as national activities in 32 European countries grouped in four European regions (Northern, Western/Central, Southern, Eastern Europe). The report not only seeks to identify blind spots at the European map of social monitoring and reporting, but even more discusses different approaches and highlights “good practices”. By documenting and allowing better access to this sort of information, the report also aims to establish linkages between past and current activities and to form a more solid fundament for present and future discourses and initiatives in the field of measuring and monitoring well-being and progress. In other words, the report is first and foremost considered as a contribution to enhance the future measurement of well-being and societal progress 'beyond GDP' and to improve respective information infrastructures. The final parts of the report explore common patterns and trends and present suggestions for future improvements and research agendas.

Among the various findings, the report underlines that there are very few countries left in Europe without any social monitoring or reporting activities and that there is a remarkable degree of similarity concerning the coverage of certain life domains. Despite several similarities the report identifies however also many important differences between the various activities, especially in regard to the general aims as well as the degree and kind of conceptual underpinning and not least the underlying notions of well-being. The report also identifies strengths and weaknesses of social monitoring and reporting activities depending on the institutional background and responsible actors such as governments, national statistical bureaus or research institutes. Finally the report discusses issues that are relevant for future developments and improvements in measuring societal progress 'beyond GDP', regarding the content as well as methodological approaches of social monitoring and reporting activities, the use of composite indices, the relationship between well-being and sustainability, now- and forecasting, harmonization vs. diversity, innovation and continuity and last but not least, networking and collaboration.

Web portal “Social Monitoring and Reporting in Europe”
The GESIS – Web-portal “Social Monitoring and Reporting in Europe”, which is also an outcome of the e-Frame project, aims to present and showcase various sorts of information related to social monitoring and reporting activities in Europe at national as well as supranational levels. This web portal does not only provide access to the stocktaking report and online database mentioned before, but also provides online access to instruments for monitoring well-being and progress and publications related to social reporting in Europe. The web portal also informs regularly on new releases of social reports, conference announcements and recent events, projects, and any other significant news in the fields of European social monitoring and reporting.

Noll, Heinz-Herbert and Catrin Berger (2014): Stocktaking Report on Social Monitoring and Reporting in Europe. E-Frame Project, Deliverable D5.2. Gesis, Social Indicators Research Centre, Mannheim.


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