Improving performance measurement to drive impact at scale

ISEAL is convening a working group of landscape and jurisdictional practitioners who are acting to improve landscape performance measurement. 

To effectively address systemic issues like climate change, biodiversity and human rights at scale, we need to use landscape and jurisdictional-level approaches. Measuring performance is critical to understanding how approaches at this scale are working.

But how can we drive improvements when getting consistent metrics and data across regions is such a challenge? 

Improving and aligning metrics and data collection will support monitoring efforts, but issues affecting data collection are broad. They range from data availability, quality and consistency to the costs of data collection and analysis. Available data can be outdated, have incorrect spatial characteristics, or be collected at different scales that make it hard to use. Some data can be confidential or sensitive, which makes it difficult to collect.

Our working group aims to address key issues of data availability, quality and alignment across initiatives. The working group will focus on three issue categories: 

  • Biodiversity and nature
  • Human well-being (including livelihoods) 
  • Human rights (specifically labour rights). 

Through shared learning, landscape and jurisdictional practitioners will be better equipped to support emerging global data needs at company and investor level. 

What are we learning?

This work builds on a previous workshop and discussions, which brought together experts and leading initiatives to share insights and explore ways to best measure performance. SourceUp and LandScale, along with other initiatives, shared insights from pilot activities testing their indicator and assessment frameworks. 

Data availability

A key learning was on the importance of building good relationships with local stakeholders, particularly government institutions and producers, to facilitate access to data. This was seen as especially true where data is not publicly available or where additional information about the data is needed to use it effectively. The data that is available is frequently being improved or updated, highlighting the importance of setting internal review dates to prevent constant revisions. 

Data collection and analysis

The costs of data collection and analysis can vary significantly from region to region. Using secondary data, where the quality is good enough, was generally preferred to primary data given the high costs associated. However, secondary data often still needed to be validated locally to ensure its quality. This was particularly evident when comparing satellite data sources where it can be easy to mis-interpret what the data is showing about potential changes in land-use. Despite the higher costs, collecting primary data is critical where secondary data is not available or not sufficient, as is frequently the case when measuring social indicators for example.

A flexible approach

Indicators should be adapted to consider regional priorities. Local stakeholders can identify which indicators are best suited and how they can be measured. If the data required for some indicators is not available, it is possible to use best proxies and adapt to the regional context. Some conclusions can still be drawn from data that is not perfect. 

Despite this, for critical indicators in a landscape or jurisdiction where robust data sources or suitable proxies do not exist, obtaining data through processes that are costly and time-intensive is often worthwhile. Just because something is hard to measure, doesn’t mean we should not be doing it!

Ways forward

There are ways to improve our approaches to performance measurement at landscape and jurisdictional levels. For example, through developing common definitions, data collection guidelines and effective governance and validation processes. 

It is important that we continue to connect with others working in the same landscapes to share data and learning as these approaches evolve. The measurement working group aims to continue this with a specific focus on key topic areas.

While measuring progress at landscape or jurisdictional level has its challenges, we should not lose sight of the fact that the aim is to demonstrate progress and drive improvements at a scale that makes sense. The data does not need to be perfect to provide valuable insights to those undertaking actions at a landscape level. We cannot let it discourage us from working in more challenging environments where improvements are needed most.

If you are interested in learning more about ISEAL’s landscape and jurisdictional approaches work and the measurement working group, you can contact us at