Urban Governance: A Sourcebook on Indicators

Part Two

4. The Recommended Indicators 

of Good Urban Governance

With Special Reference to Asia and the Pacific

The Aim

These suggested indicators are aimed at:

  • Measuring the quality of governance of the political and administrative regimes of the city viz. a viz. the situations (or conditions) they are in, the mechanisms, institutions and processes that they employ to combat the problems that stress them and the effectiveness of their responses in solving those problems; and

  • Depict the process and direction the governance systems are taking in the city.

The Purpose

The purpose of these indicators is to encourage and assist the urban local government institutions and their civil society and corporate sector partners in understanding and appreciating:

  • the need for good governance;

  • the need for regular assessment of their performance to determine and address the strengths and weakness of the city’s political and administrative mechanisms;

  • the ways and measurement of good urban governance; and

  • the urgent need to use the methodology and indicators for self-assessment.

Expected Outcome

The expected major outcomes from the use of this set of indicators are:

  • A novel urban partnership culture that respects the need and responsibility of each other to keep an adequate cooperative tab on the processes of city planning, administration and governance.

  • A readily available and regularly updated, comprehensive database to measure the status & trends of the City’s governance and its impact.

  • Constantly improving city governance, which is responsive, responsible and accountable to the governed.

Criteria Used for the Selection of Indicators

In compiling these two sets of indicators of urban good governance, there were several primary considerations. They were selected after ascertaining that the data sought by each indicator:

  • are readily available and easily collectable at the city level

  • can really help assess governance and

  • can, where required, effectively help change governance

  • are easy to understand and use by the assessors and citizens

  • do not require the use of survey and studies

The selected indicators are those that can help guide urban policy directions, participatory governance and greater municipal responsiveness to needs and aspirations of the residents.

Intended Users

This set of indicators is aimed at stimulating urban local governments and their partners to undertake a periodic exercise of participatory self-assessment to ascertain:

  • the direction their local urban governance is proceeding in;

  • the impact of such governance in the short rum; and

  • the vibrancy of democratic participation in local governance. This will be a participatory joint exercise and therefore, the following partners will be the users of these indicators:

  • national, sub-national and urban local governments;

  • international development agencies;

  • civil society organizations;

  • representative organizations of the city’s corporate sector;

  • research institutions;

  • citizens, particularly the urban poor groups;

  • women’s groups; and

  • children between 15 – 18 years.

Two levels of indicators

Just consider how medical examinations are held to check the health status of human beings. They are generally done in two stages. First, the physician does a primary examination with basic instruments like the stethoscope. She checks the pulse-rate or puts the client on a treadmill. These are simple tests. Having ascertained the basic condition of health, she puts the patient through a series of pathological and other advanced hi-tech tests to complete the checking up process.

Similarly, here in this Source Book, we are recommending a two-tier approach to determine how healthy the urban governance in your city is. Consequently, we suggest here for your use, two sets of indicators of Good Governance. The first is meant to be an instrument of qualitative primary examination – just a report card. The second is a more advanced quantitative and somewhat high-tech pathological test.

  • A. Primary Indicators – The Report Card: These are drive-force indicators. They indicate the performance of the key driving forces of the governance process in the city. Good governance being an amalgam of systems, procedures and processes, the indicators included in this set are basically CSR level indicators. It is a mid-course pulse-checker. Therefore, its emphasis is on the institutions systems and processes of governance and not much on delivery of basic services, which are generally listed for programme reviews. The indicators suggested here are for periodic performance assessment and, not for outcome evaluations. They indicate whether the course of governance is on the right track and which areas of city governance need improvement. By applying this set of simple and perceptive indicators, the stakeholders will be able to make a fair assessment of the strength, weaknesses and direction of the city’s governing process. This set of indicators has an in-built rating system. It provides for performance rating against each indicator along a rating range of 1 to 4. For excellent, high, good and moderate performance, the respondent gives 4, 3, 2, and 1 points respectively. For low performance, no points are given, for these indicators are to assess good governance and not low performance.

This report card containing 50 indicators is recommended for use by municipal institutions if they are keen on doing an internal assessment using the perceptions and ratings of their own staff members and councillors. They can use this card as it is as the indicators given are considered the basic minimum aspects which municipal good governance must have. It can also be administered outside the municipal system, including civil society partners.

The Source Book also offers a set of desegregated report cards, indifferent colours, that gives the users the freedom to create their own indicators. They can select either from these 50 indicators given in a standard report card, or develop their own according to the specific needs of the city. The Report Cards are designed for each of the main critical areas of municipal work such as, solid waste management, water and sanitation, poverty, job creation, health care, shelter and public transport. Each user is free to design and use similar report cards for other areas of critical action that are not already designed for in this set.


B. Extended Indicators – The pathological test: This set is for end-of-term evaluation of the endeavour’s outcome and impact. While the Primary Drive-Force Indicators, referred to above, will look at the functioning of municipal systems and processes, the Extended Indicators will help capture the effectiveness of those systems and processes in terms of inputs, outputs, outcomes and, where possible, the final impact. Being an optional exercise, this set of indicators does not have a rating system. It only provides a standard norm that is achievable through good governance. Each city can decide which of these 100 indicators are relevant to their specific needs and conditions and use them for extended assessment in order to ascertain whether the desired minimum norms have been achieved or not. If most of the indicator show that norms have not been achieved, then it can be concluded that the city governance is weak and there is much work for the municipality to complete.

How to Use the Indicators

  • Set up an appropriate Task Force to coordinate the use of these indicators. Endure that it comprises, in the least, a representative of the mayor, NGOs, Business People and academics of the town. Limit the number to a maximum of 10 persons.

  • Identify an impartial research or academic institution to conduct the assessment.

To use Primary Indicators – The report card To Use Extended Indicators - The pathological test
  • Identify the major stakeholder groups in the city who are concerned about city governance. E.g. Elected Municipal Councillors; Senior Municipal Officials, CBOs, NGOs and Citizen Committees, Private Business Establishments; Religious Leaders; Media Correspondents; Academics and Experts; Real Estate Developers; Construction Firms.

  • Select a representative sample of respondents from these groups to administer the report card. Ensure that an equal number of respondents is selected from each group i.e., 3, 5 or 10 from each group. The Task Force will decide on the sample size.

  • Administer the report card to the select sample of respondents.

  • Each respondent will give a performance rating against each of the indicators as excellent, high, good, moderate or low. For excellent to good performance, the respondent will give 4 and 1 point respectively.

  • Total up the points given by all respondents.

  • Divide the total by the total number of respondents.

example: 50+34+64+101+82+77+33+69+80+90 = 681

divided by 10 respondents = 308

The maximum points obtainable are 400. Therefore, calculate the percentage mark.

example: 308 x 100 = 70%


Now, assess the effectiveness of your local governance systems using the following ratings:


The assigned institutions must convene a Stakeholders’ dialogue and

  • select from the list of extended indicators those that the stakeholders consider as relevant to the specific needs and conditions of your city. You are free to add or delete indicators to suit your city’s needs.

  • determine against each of those selected indicators a realistic norm/standard that is achievable through good governance, and a 4 to 1 point scheme to rate the progress as in the case of primary indicators.

Use the select list of indicators and realisable norms as an instrument for detailed assessment of city governance i.e. to ascertain whether the desired minimum norms have been achieved or not.

The assigned institution will then gather the data. The Municipal administration to provide the necessary linkages and support the collection of data.

Use the collected data to determine how many points be given against each indicator. i.e. 4 to 1 points.

Total up the points.

The maximum points obtainable will depend on the number of indicators used. Maximum points per indicator is 4. If 80 indicators have been used, the total score must be divided by the maximum possible score of 80 x 4 = 320 and multiplied by100. Now, assess the effectiveness of your local governance systems and processes using the following ratings:


75 – 100%

50 – 75%

35 – 50%

Below 35 %

Highly Effective - We salute the Administration

Effective - But, the full potential is not fully tapped.

Good - Can do much better.

Moderate - Needs more commitment & effort.

Action Steps to Initiate the Assessment/Analysis Process

If you are one of those interested in the wellbeing of your city, its residents and its democratic institutions, the first thing you may wish to do is to encourage the city government and its partners to take a good look at the way the city is being managed. The action steps leading therefrom are easy to understand and support. The major action steps to initiate the exercise are:

1 Introducing Self-Assessment:

Ø Meet the Mayor/CEO of the city.

Ø Share THE RECOMMENDED sets of indicators of good governance.

Ø Ask how does his/her city fare viz. a viz. The indicators.

Ø Convince that s/he must know the impact of her/his leadership.

Ø Explain the political value of using the indicators.

2 Orientation & Education:

Ø Share and explain the indicators with senior councillors, managers, planners and NGOs.

Ø Educate the public on the assessment process and train the end-users of the indicators.

3 Indicator modification:

Ø Select from the list the indicators that are relevant to city’s condition & needs. Modify them to suit the city’s specific needs.

Ø You may wish to look at some of the municipal priority areas listed in the indicator list. These are priority areas that emerged from a UNDP conducted Mayors’ survey in 1997. You are free to add to the list additional areas, which are priorities for your city.

4 Set up a Task Force:

Ø Identify a research institution or a non-governmental agency to organise and conduct the assessment. Ensure impartiality of the organisation.

Ø Set up a Participatory Self-Assessment Task Force, preferably under the leadership of non-partisan, non-municipal, and academic persons.

Ø Formalise the Task Force within the municipal administrative system.

Suggested composition is: Academic from a university or any other high education institution; A Counsellor nominee of the Mayor; The Chief Executive Officer or Municipal Commissioner or Secretary; Two/three nominees each from the CBO/NGO federations, corporate sector organisations in the city; A nominee from main religious institutions in the city; Two senior residents co-opted by the above members at its first meeting.

5 Survey, Analyse and Publish the results:

Ø Follow the guide on ‘How to Use the indicators’ given on the previous page.

Ø Identify the list of correspondents to administer the questionnaire. Ensure that each stakeholder group is represented by an equal number of respondents.

Ø Publish the results of the survey.

Return to the Cover page - Contents      "Urban Governance: A Sourcebook on Indicators"
Comments and suggestions to - hsrinivas@gdrc.org