Eco-Efficiency in Policy Analytics for Program Management

February 10th, 2021 by dayat No comments »

Although many people might see protection of IP as being counter to the ideal of a university’s mission to educate, nothing can be farther from the goal or truth of IP protection. Protection does not mean that others do not learn about the invention or discovery, it simply does allow the developer or inventor to retain the right to generate products from the invention. Additionally, because patents require a full written description of the technology, a patent is DESIGNED to advance the body of knowledge for us all. (Rondelli, 2014)

San Diego State University is closely tied to its community internally as a program manager and fund generating force as well as externally being a steward for broad community development and investment in the local environment.

The Technology Transfer program that has most bearing on San Diego State University’s environmental community is the partnership with the State of California’s Energy Commission Energy Innovations Small Grant Program.

The Energy Innovations Small Grant (EISG) Program provides up to $95,000 for hardware projects and $50,000 for modeling projects to small businesses, non-profits, individuals and academic institutions to conduct research that establishes the feasibility of new, innovative energy concepts. Research projects must target one of the PIER R&D areas, address a California energy problem, and provide a potential benefit to California electric and natural gas ratepayers. (Energy Innovations Small Grant Program, 2014)

This program is administered by Frank H. Steensnaes and is run from the San Diego State University Research Foundation’s office located at 6495 Alvarado Ct. Suite 103, San Diego, California 92182. The far-reaching effects of this program impact many academic institutions, private commercial enterprises, and civil organizations. The delivery of this program has influenced the energy and financial markets in California and throughout the country. To facilitate understanding of the regional environmental ecosystem surrounding San Diego State University, it is crucial for us to consider the broader sustainability perspective of the institution. San Diego State is dedicated to the delivery of social, ecological, and economic growth for it community and students.


Defining Sustainability

“In today’s world, the energy we use and the ways we use it are changing. For California to make the leap from the status quo to achieving climate and energy goals at the lowest possible cost, we need much more energy innovation” (Energy Innovations Small Grant Program, 2014). It is from this premise that the need to create a framework to provide program management that also adheres to eco-efficiency principles must manifest. This framework promises leadership in structure and outcomes, it also offers a paradigm for stewardship in business relationships so collaboration can move forward. It will be crucial that every step of innovation stake its inherent value to society by seamlessly adhering to social, ecological, and economic parameters.

Sustainability can be defined in terms of eco-efficiency. “In simplest terms, it means creating more goods and services with ever less use of resources, waste and pollution” (Development, 2000). By defining sustainability in this manner, we see the integration of people, planet, and profit into a workable framework. The need to provide a prescriptive methodology for adherence to specific goals and desired outcomes becomes a focal point not only for the Technology Transfer program, but also to my organization in harmonizing efforts to report and commercialize innovations.


In order to manifest our desired ending, we must first understand the state of the outcome before rushing to obtain that conclusion. The Research Foundation Technology Transfer program envisions a state of being that produces academic projects with economic value. The ability to foster innovation into real-world applications is the desired outcome. With unbridled capacity to assist students, faculty, and the community into gratifying and rewarding ventures, it is possible to provide the nurturing and profitable environments so many seek when pursuing higher education. San Diego State University is in the business of research, scholarship, and creativity. The execution of programs is measured in continued success as well as in deeper penetration into the local, national, and international arenas. Only by defining the ideal situation for the program can we begin outlining the steps in order to accomplishment. This top down approach works in many ways. The main benefit, of course, is the ability to empower participants to pursue more freedom and creativity.

By first defining the desired outcome, we can best serve the participants. Eco-efficiency promotes the concept of minimizing exploitation of scarce resources. It also examines the synergy of the built environment with the natural environment. Lastly, eco-efficiency mandates that increased economic, environmental, and equity can be monetized. By understanding lifecycle and intrinsic principles on embodied value, it is possible to reach the anticipated goals of the program. “Establishing framework conditions which foster innovation and transparency and which allow sharing responsibility among stakeholders will amplify eco-efficiency for the entire economy and deliver progress toward sustainability” (2000). By avoiding the deliberate sanctioning of paralysis by analysis, we seek to execute vision and not toil over procedure.


The manifestation of eco-efficiency in program delivery is an innovative solution to unexplored opportunities in the field. “Eco-efficiency is not limited simply to making incremental efficiency improvements in existing practices and habits. That is much too narrow a view. On the contrary, eco-efficiency should stimulate creativity and innovation in the search for new ways of doing things” (2000). In order to view the constraints of adoption of eco-efficiency, we will examine Michael Ben-Eli’s five fundamental domains for sustainable development. The five domains (Ben-Eli, 2014) are:

The Material Domain: Constitutes the basis for regulating the flow of materials and energy that underlie existence.
The Economic Domain: Provides a guiding framework for creating and managing wealth.
The Domain of Life: Provides the basis for appropriate behavior in the biosphere.
The Social Domain: Provides the basis for social interactions.
The Spiritual Domain: Identifies the necessary attitudinal orientation and provides the basis for a universal code of ethics.
It is crucial at this stage to follow Ben-Eli’s framework to ensure complicity with the underlying inherent principles of sustainability as describes in the five domains.
Domain One: The Material Domain

The intent of the first domain is to examine the use of eco-efficiency in terms of resources. Eco-efficiency “is not limited to achieving relative improvements in a company s use of resources and its prevention of pollution. It is much more about innovation and the need for change toward functional needs and service intensity, to contribute to de-coupling growth from resources” (2000). As the Technology Transfer program redefines its policies of its relationship with resource orientation, it can begin by measuring the consumption of not only its operations but also the embodied energy and matter in the delivery of its program. This examination of the flow of resources is comprehensive, but considerate of the many stakeholders and functions it actually serves.

Domain Two: The Economic Domain

In this next domain, we ask ourselves the question of bio-spheric pricing and business rationale for incorporating the eco-efficiency parameters of sustainability in the program environment. “The business case for eco-efficiency applies to every area of activity within a company – from eliminating risks and finding additional savings through to identifying opportunities and realizing them in the marketplace” (2000). This is a vital area of opportunity for the program. In what metrics can the true value of its efforts be accounted? Will a redefining of success be needed or will its stated objectives of commercializing academic projects suffice? Will the private sector permit the augmentation and redefining of economic value in its dealings with the institution? It would behoove both institutions to garner more of the true value not only in one-off interactions but also in long-term support for initiatives whether large financial rewards are part of the project. The ability to create such metrics would facilitate the recognition of this domain.

Domain Three: The Domain of Life

It is of particular importance to define the parameters of this domain. How could such a program exist if the value of all forms of life were sacrificed for material gain? Diversity is the desired outcome for the program. It requires little work to understand the power and influence that this program may have on people. When considering how to define measuring these values, it becomes a more difficult task.

The following chart reveals the correlation of economic value, quality of life, and environmental impact:

Governmental Measures and Objectives (2000, p. 25)

“Our argument is that, by adopting eco-efficient practices, it is possible to decouple these trends so that, as the dotted lines show, the economy and quality of life continue to rise while resource use and pollution fall away. Indeed, by reducing the pressure on natural resources and the environment we will actually magnify the improvement in the quality of life” (2000). This program has the real ability impact lives and should-as part of its purview consider how the monetization of academic projects not only will affect its institution, but also consider the impacts to its participants. Not only will this understanding help divert monies and resources where the really need to be, but perhaps help it the technical assistance its participants receive. This consideration also promotes the diversity the school mandates.

Domain Four: The Social Domain

The fourth domain helps expand the role and purpose of the program. By incorporating policy that ensures its participants are tolerant, believe in fundamental truths, practice inclusion, and scholarship, the program moves closer to realizing its real purpose. “All these thoughts reinforce the still fragile idea that open processes, responsive structures, plurality of expression, and the equality of all individuals ought to constitute the corner-stones of social life” (2014). When considering the existing body of work from the program, it becomes clear that no such opus is demanded or required. It would assist in the ascertainment of true value to explore this concept of personal value systems for proper alignment. Eco-efficiency describes, “In several economic sectors, considerable costs caused by environmental pollution and social damage are still not included in the price of goods and services. Until this is changed, the market will continue to send wrong signals and polluters will have no incentive to change and adapt the performance of their products and processes” (2000). Of all five domains, the opportunity for most substantive traction can occur here. By thinking more holistically about the metrics of reporting, the Technology Transfer program could make headway by implementing solution in this domain.

Domain Five: The Spiritual Domain

This last domain entails the reconciliation of love in the workplace. Oft seen as disparate concepts with zero chance of coexistence, we must find some broader universal label to encompass the idea. The concept of servant leadership can be viewed as a solution. Barbuto and Wheeler in their journal article Scale Development and Construct Clarification of Servant Leader reflect that, “The integration of servant leadership principles in practice has less to do with directing other people and more to do with serving their needs and in fostering the use of shared power in an effort to enhance effectiveness in the professional role” (2006, p. 425). Empathy is defined as “the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another” (, 2014). A real opportunity exists to affect the spiritual being of the participants of the program. It would not need to a procedural policy but a social one. Servant leaders are more likely to be involved in a functional two-way transmission of energy and data. Not only do desired outcomes become more focused based on communication, but also the real success can then be measured in personal growth and actualization.


As defined earlier, eco-efficiency promises leadership in structure and outcomes, it also offers a paradigm for stewardship in business relationships so collaboration can move forward. In terms of the program level examination, I have designed the following eco-efficient outcomes:

Use participant feedback and historic data to establish a decoupling point between the program participants and the program administrators for modification or enhancement to the EISGTTP/PIER.
Ascertain the criticality of sustainable practices within program delivery beyond funding mechanism into nontraditional economic evaluation
Several fundamental issues will be examined including the parameters of the change necessary to achieve stated program goals such as commercialization Outcomes and advancement of technology. We move from those goals to the reality of the outcomes, which measures the expansion of knowledge. This comparison would be deficient without consideration of secondary issues such as the recommendations to shape a more fulfilling program experience. Three layers of recommendations will be designed. The first layer consists of programmatic recommendations. The second layer is of non-programmatic recommendations. Lastly, we must include strategic recommendations to ensure the expansion of the accumulated body of knowledge.
I am undertaking a nine-step methodology in performing the examination for the program. The first step involves collecting technical data from the previous 13 years of the program. The next step will be to validate the data. Third step involves developing and stating a problem statement. The forth step involves conducting a root cause analysis. The fifth step involves correlating the data to the mission and vision of the program. The sixth step involves developing a corrective action plan (CAP) to mitigate, eliminate, or offset any discrepancies in the program. The seventh step analyzes the impacts of such recommendations. The eighth step involves coordinating stakeholders to share findings and receive feedback. The last step is to create a monitoring and reporting mechanism to introduce the traceability of future interactions with their clients.

In my definition of Ben-Eli’s systems thinking and cybernetics, it is clear that one must consider external and internal environment interactions in systems or grouping of systems called networks. From this point, we must consider the “regulation, adaption, and evolution” of response as defined by cybernetics to understand the relationship of first order/stagnation or and second order metabolism/diffusion of change with either open loops or closed loops of feedback. With first order change, the response only manifests itself on a combination of five possible dimensions: material, economic, domain of life, social, and spiritual (Ben-Eli, The Cybernetics of Sustainability:Definition and Underlying Principles, 2012).

As I reflect on the five dimensions, it becomes possible to implement plan of action for the overall examination of the program. Dimension 1 asks us to consider the material impacts of the program. The second dimension looks at human development in economic analysis, which is particularly salient in discovering one of the implementation designs of viewing program and individual success in terms beyond traditional financial metrics. The third dimension ensures diversity and connectedness in sustainable development. The fourth dimension seeks liberation of the individual from a global perspective. Last, the fifth dimension asks us to link spiritually in the actions of the program.

The communication process in examining the program for eco-efficiency involves a complete stakeholder analysis including a specific metric for social impact. In traditional program management, a stakeholder is anyone who can affect or can influence the program’s success or failure. The benefits of a clear communication plan include items such as management of uncertainty, scope, and change. When moving beyond the traditional definition of stakeholder, we seek the feedback of the community. As Edwards stated, “The Sustainability and Community principles encompass all the Three Es (ecology, economy, and equity) because they grapple with difficult problems whose long-term solutions require a systemic approach” (2010, p. 29).

The next issue to consider is the amount of education or training required to install a program-wide expectation of continuous learning. This issue is critical since as Orr told us, “Even if humans were able to learn more rapidly, the application of fast knowledge generates complicated problems much faster than we identify them and respond” (2011, p. 282). The institution of a set of best practices mandating a constant appraisal of worldviews while extending program benefits into long-term outcomes.

For guidance in the framework, we can seek guidance from a myriad of sources. One such resource is found in the data generated from other Program audits, reviews, and detailed annual reports of various technology university transfer offices, such as the Performance Audit of the Arizona’s Universities by the Arizona Office of the Auditor General, Report 08-02, May, 2008 and the Report of the Purdue University Office of Technology Commercialization, 2010. It is fundamental to use parametric information derived from experiences. By leveraging the compiled information, knowledge can then be extracted as best practices.

In the final structure of program examination, the importance of conveying the recommendations must be created. “To change the system so that it is sustainable and manageable” (2004, p. 3048), it is imperative to coalesce efforts of reduce redundancies while adhering to founding principles not of just the program but also to the tenants of eco-efficiency and sustainable development at large. With no procedural instruction, the malaise inherent to the human condition may diminish the productivity of environmental, economic, and social well-being of program participants. This task provides the prescriptive framework forward.


Time is of the essence. Let us focus on a deeper understanding of purpose and outcomes as the EISGTTP program manifests itself into a true value-bearing conduit. Overall, by acknowledging the constraint on resources, the possible monetization of non-traditional metrics, and focusing on people, we can create a better program. The level of change could systemically unfold by constantly seeking input from the external environment and just the internal view perpetually held in terms of success or failure. The program presents an opportunity to meld many desirable elements: technology, sustainability, and people.


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Michael Vargas, Founder, and Principal of Atlas Project Support is an expert in cost engineering best practices and Green Building approaches. Michael has over 12 years of construction experience and project management insight, and has proven experience in highly technical and sophisticated management systems. Mr. Vargas has earned a Masters in Business Administration, a Masters in Project Management, and a Graduate Certificate in Financial Analysis from the Keller Graduate School of Management. He has also completed a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration in Management from San Diego State University and is currently a Doctoral of Education candidate at Creighton University. Michael’s academic endeavors manifest themselves in his role as an Adjunct Professor for Saint Leo University’s Donald R. Tapia School of Business.