At the start of the programme in 2009, the four partner NGOs from Cameroon, Ghana, Liberia and Peru developed a set of 70 indicators organised into 15 themes, which was informed by a piece of research titled 'How do report cards help?' This set was reviewed again in 2010, and two indicators were dropped and 10 indicators were added to result in a total of 78 indicators. To collect data, some partners carried out large surveys with different stakeholders and others submitted extensive information requests to authorities. Full details are available in the methodology pages for 2009 and 2010.
Following a mid-programme independent review, it was decided to simplify the number of common indicators and amend the guidance to clarify that only desk-based research was necessary to collect data. The aim of these revisions was to produce a more consistent annual assessment of key overall indicators and changes in the legal and regulatory framework for the forest sector, rather than a comprehensive assessment of what information is available on many detailed aspects of the forest sector. Based on the experience of the first two years, it was felt that it was not necessary to collect this level of detail annually and that major changes could be better highlighted using the simpler set of indicators. Data collection and finalisation of report cards had also proven time-consuming for some partners in 2010 and 2009, so the emphasis was placed on producing a more time and cost efficient report card in 2011.
During an annual workshop in Cameroon in May 2011, the seven partners discussed which indicators were the most important ones to capture. A synthesised set of 20 was then agreed and a revised template with guidelines was produced. These 20 indicators do not map directly on to equivalent ones from previous years, although many are closely linked. In some cases they encompass more than one indicator from before, whereas only the indicator on regulation of environmental services has no direct antecedent. Some other changes were also made, including:
Although the approach taken in 2011 was geared towards achieving greater consistency across the partners, and Global Witness made suggestions to them on their indicators and analysis, there were still differing assessments due to the country-specific context and the partners' perceptions. The 2011 Report Card also made a clear distinction between the common indicators and the country-specific studies that partners conduct on particular issues relating to transparency in their forest sector. By simplifying the number of indicators and using desk-based research to collect data on them, the partners have then had greater flexibility and capacity to develop tools such as social audits and information needs surveys on specific aspects of the forest sector in their country. The 2011 Report Card does not negate the importance of wider consultation and greater use of key informants is encouraged, especially of those who can identify community interests and experiences in relation to transparency of the forest sector. It aims to maintain the original concept of a common report card which is produced by a time and cost efficient approach relative to the results that it yields.