Establishing criteria

Evaluation criteria need to be determined very carefully, as they determine which effects will be investigated for the alternatives. They can be based upon:

  • the problem analysis. Both the activities in the orientation phase and in the definition of the policy problem give an indication for the determination of the evaluation criteria. In the orientation phase, it was already investigated which aspects are relevant. An analysis of wishes, friction points, complaints or initiatives around the subject under study can give an indication of relevant evaluation criteria. A further definition of those relevant aspects was made during the description of the zero-situation and the desired situation. In almost all cases it was needed to determine the units that identify these aspects. So, already some evaluation criteria were formulated during the definition of the policy problem;
  • the character of the alternatives. This set refers firstly to technical and institutional aspects that may have a role during implementation. Further aspects may be aesthetically of character (like landscape considerations). It should be noted that the criteria of this group are generally qualitative;
  • analogue problem situations. Evaluation criteria from already implemented projects or policies around a similar problem may serve as inspiration;
  • check lists (systematic listing of points of attention) can also be starting point for the determination of evaluation criteria. Check lists are general in nature: they should not limit the creativity of those who are responsible for determining evaluation criteria, but should only be used in addition. ADB Environment Paper (1991) shows an example of checklists that can be used in Coastal Zone Management.

The central government can be a good source for evaluation criteria at macro level. Such parameters relate to the objectives concerning employment, (development of ) income, inflation levels. But, e.g., also objectives of physical planning, environmental management, the availability of resources and technological development should be used to come to evaluation criteria.

Read a list of important criteria.


Consider the problem of oil and gas exploration from under a large intertidal wetland. Imagine that the government needs the oil and gas as it is a major source of income for the state, but local people fear the decline of nature in such an international important nature reserve. Decline in nature might occur due to the bottom subsidence (and flooding) which will occur in the area according to some geologists.

a) Consider the following criteria and decide whether they are proper to base a decision upon regarding the exploration:

  • The extent to which nature is affected.
  • The change in area of mussel banks.
  • The total subsidence in the area.
  • The amount of money earned from the project, relative to the total income of the state.

b) Give five other criteria yourselves.



a) Criteria should be as detailed and objective as possible. So, the ‘extent’ of something is rather vague and should be avoided. The other three are objective quantitative measures and are preferred. However, the average subsidence, does not give information related to the decline of nature. A large subsidence taking place locally and a small subsidence taking place globally, can have completely different results. Thus, this criterion is also disregarded.

b) Other criteria might be:

  • the chance of extinction of rare species due to flooding of their breeding grounds
  • the area affected by subsidence, as a percentage of the total
  • the speed of subsidence related to the ‘elasticity’ of nature (how fast can nature restore the subsidence by import of sediment)
  • the size of the project benefits for the government, relative to other incomes.