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The politics of evaluation

The politics of evaluation: Participation and policy implementation

David Taylor
Susan Balloch
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  • Book Info
    The politics of evaluation
    Book Description:

    Evaluation has become a central tool in the development of contemporary social policy. Its widespread popularity is based on the need to provide evidence of the effectiveness of policies and programmes. This book sees evaluation as an inherently political activity, as much about forms of governance as scientific practice. Using a wide range of examples from neighbourhood renewal, health and social care and other aspects of social policy, it relates practical issues in evaluation design to their political contexts. With contributions from leading academics and evaluation practitioners, the book considers key issues in the politics of evaluation including: governance and evaluation; participatory evaluation; partnerships and evaluation; and learning from evaluation. The politics of evaluation is important reading for academics, social researchers, policy makers, service providers and professionals across the public services as well as professional evaluators. It will be a valuable resource for students on a range of social science and professional courses and those concerned with recent developments in social research methodology.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-121-0
    Subjects: Education, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. List of tables, figures and boxes
    (pp. v-v)
  2. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-vi)
    David Taylor and Susan Balloch
  3. INTRODUCTION The politics of evaluation: an overview
    (pp. 1-18)
    David Taylor and Susan Balloch

    Evaluation research should be understood as inherently political. That is this book’s starting point. While most commentators recognise that evaluation operates within political constraints, we go further and suggest that evaluation itself is socially constructed and politically articulated. As a practice aimed at producing scientific knowledge, we see evaluation as materially and discursively constituted. It is given meaning within wider social and political relations. We believe this approach avoids some of the deficiencies to be found in recent academic debates about the politics of evaluation research. It does not weaken our belief in the importance of evaluation or the role...

  4. Part One: Governance and evaluation

    • ONE Below decks on the youth justice flagship: the politics of evaluation
      (pp. 21-40)
      Peter Squires and Lynda Measor

      Our interest in evaluation has been arrived at almost by accident. Perhaps it is the same for everyone. Driving our particular focus on this issue have been our recent experiences as local evaluators for a series of young offender projects. Reflecting upon those experiences has brought us to a recognition of the close (and mutually reinforcing) relationships between the government’s strategy for young offenders and the process of evaluating the resulting ‘interventions’ within which we were implicated as evaluators. As we argue in this chapter, there is a clear and direct connection between the new and quasi-scientific language of ‘programme...

    • TWO Urban regeneration: who defines the indicators?
      (pp. 41-56)
      Peter Ambrose

      This chapter focuses onwho choosesandwho definesthe indicators to be used in assessing the success of urban regeneration programmes, including the measurement of resident ‘participation’.

      It is universally acknowledged that ‘progress’ should be measured over the life of any urban regeneration programme. This is significant to all investors in managing the process, from public, private and voluntary sectors, to the local authority, to the government departments responsible for maximising the cost-effectiveness of interventions of this kind and most significantly to those living in the area. Relevant and practicable indicators of progress must therefore be identified at the...

    • THREE Reaching for the stars: the performance assessment framework for social services
      (pp. 57-74)
      Stella Law and Karin Janzon

      In November 1998, the government issued a White Paper entitledModernising social services: Promoting independence, improving protection, raising standards(DH, 1998). It contained a raft of new structures and processes for regulating standards of social services provision at both an individual and a corporate level. It also introduced the concept of a Performance Assessment Framework (PAF) to “provide a basis for a common understanding between central and local government on performance, value for money and resourcing issues in social services” (p 116). This heralded the inception of a sophisticated social services performance assessment system to monitor and compare the performance...

  5. Part Two: Participation and evaluation

    • FOUR Service-user involvement in evaluation and research: issues, dilemmas and destinations
      (pp. 77-86)
      Peter Beresford

      Is user involvement in research and evaluation necessarily an empowering and liberatory activity? This has been a growing question for service users, service-user organisations and service-user researchers. There has been a tendency traditionally to approach benign sounding ideas like ‘participation’, ‘user involvement’ and ‘empowerment’ relatively uncritically. More recently, they have been subjected to more critical consideration. Their complexity and ambiguity have begun to be explored (see Baistow, 1995; Beresford and Croft, 1996; Cooke and Kothari, 2001). Increasingly, service users and service-user researchers are now concluding that the potential of user involvement in research and evaluation depends on the nature, process,...

    • FIVE Best Value but not best interests: can service users instruct mental health advocates?
      (pp. 87-96)
      Hazel Platzer

      This chapter seeks to explore a dilemma. This is the dilemma faced by independent evaluators when they elicit views from service users which lead the evaluator to question the ethos of voluntary sector provision in mental health advocacy. A model of instructed advocacy that seeks to support mental health service users who wish to be heard dominates the mental health advocacy field. This model assumes that service users are sufficiently empowered to be able to recognise and articulate their needs and therefore to give instructions. However, the literature shows that instructed advocacy does not work well for many vulnerable and...

    • SIX New Deal for Communities as a participatory public policy: the challenges for evaluation
      (pp. 97-108)
      Kay Graham and Amanda Harris

      The current Labour administration has introduced a raft of policies that hinge upon public participation. While this is often limited to consultation exercises (for example, the Best Value and Crime and Disorder legislation), some policies have gone much further. One of the best examples of a highly participatory policy is the New Deal for Communities (NDC) initiative, which forms a substantial part of the government’s neighbourhood renewal agenda. It stipulates that local people must be integrally and meaningfully engaged in all aspects of programme development and delivery. A further feature of the current government’s approach is its sharp focus on...

    • SEVEN Discovery through dialogue and appreciative inquiry: a participative evaluation framework for project development
      (pp. 109-118)
      Glynis Cousin, Judith Cousin and Frances Deepwell

      The requirement of funding bodies for projects to report on the delivery of their outputs is clearly acceptable because it is reasonable to require a project to demonstrate contract compliance. At the same time, an evaluation that is limited to such a report is trapped in ‘audit logic’ (O’Neill, 2002) which is incapable of fully supporting project development. Indeed, we argue that a listing of outputs constitutes little more than an audit and barely deserves the name evaluation if it cannot capture process or so-called soft outcomes (Dewson, 2000) or a statistical report of deliverables.

      We accept, however, that many...

    • EIGHT Evaluating projects aimed at supporting the parents of young people: “I didn’t learn anything new, but ...”
      (pp. 119-132)
      Debi Roker

      This chapter reviews the issues that arise in parenting projects and interventions, which are designed to offer information and support to the parents of teenagers. In the last few years, a large number of new initiatives have been set up by the government, as well as the statutory and voluntary sectors. These initiatives aim to provide information, advice and support to the parents of young people. These services are in a variety of formats, and include written materials, telephone helplines, parenting courses and specific projects to help particular groups, such as fathers or lone parents.

      I have been involved in...

  6. Part Three: Partnerships and evaluation

    • NINE Evaluating interagency working in health and social care: politics, policies and outcomes for service users
      (pp. 135-152)
      Audrey Leathard

      Since 1997, interagency working has taken centre stage in the new initiatives for health and social care. An increasing number of collaborative endeavours have been set up but, with some exceptions, little has been evaluated, even less where the views of service users have been involved. This review presents the issues surrounding evaluation where interagency working is concerned. In this light, some relevant projects that have been assessed will be considered. The political issues relevant to interagency evaluation will be set out, followed by the place of the policy arena with the focus on the assessment of collaborative health and...

    • TEN Reflections on an evaluation of partnerships to cope with winter pressures
      (pp. 153-174)
      Susan Balloch, Alison Penn and Helen Charnley

      This chapter reflects on an evaluation of partnership working between health and social care services in West Sussex. In evaluating projects to combat ‘winter pressures’, it outlines the mapping of the main relationships between stakeholders, findings from a questionnaire sent to senior, middle management and frontline staff and an analysis of evaluation forms. It shows how national policy drove the projects and how local politics contributed to as well as impeded their success.

      Winter pressures are governmentally recognised special problems experienced in winter by both health and social services as a result of a higher incidence of illness, especially among...

    • ELEVEN Evaluating a partnership approach to supporting people into employment
      (pp. 175-186)
      Hilary Arksey

      The government is keen to support disadvantaged groups into employment. Partnership is also a central plank of UK government policy. This chapter reports the findings of an evaluation study of an employment project called People into Employment (PIE). In the words of its promotional literature, “[PIE] hopes to assist people back into employment, on an individual, unpressurised, informal basis, in a manner which suits them”. The client groups that the project supported were disabled people, carers and former carers. The PIE project offered a tailored package of support, comprising information, advice and practical help on jobs, training and benefits provided...

  7. Part Four: Learning from evaluation

    • TWELVE Evaluation and the New Deal for Communities: learning what for whom?
      (pp. 189-204)
      Ian Smith and Lucy Grimshaw

      New Deal for Communities (NDC) is the flagship urban regeneration initiative of the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit (NRU), launched in 1999 and due to run until 2010¹. It is distinctive because of the espoused strong emphasis on ‘community involvement’ in the formulation and delivery of the initiative within the successfully bidding communities in combination with the current government’s interests in evidence-based policy making. The initiative throws up the tension that has been ever present in urban policy through the 1990s of attempting to empower communities while getting those communities to demonstrate the value of what they plan to do within their...

    • THIRTEEN Community-led regeneration: learning loops or reinvented wheels?
      (pp. 205-222)
      Mike Rowe and Marilyn Taylor

      Area-based initiatives are, perhaps, one of the most monitored and evaluated policy arenas today. National and local evaluations have been commissioned of Health Action Zones, Single Regeneration Budget (SRB) funding, Neighbourhood Management Pathfinders, Sure Start, New Deal for Communities (NDC) and of the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund, among others. While each is different in terms of geographical areas, objectives and of funding rules, evaluators confront the same problems. There is substantial evidence and learning to draw upon from past evaluations, both locally and nationally, yet there is little evidence that these lessons have been learnt. Indeed, many practitioners appear to set...

    • FOURTEEN Can social capital be a framework for participative evaluation of community health work?
      (pp. 223-238)
      Jennie Fleming and Thilo Boeck

      This chapter explores how the concept of social capital can be adapted and used as a tool for participative evaluation of community-based work. The chapter draws on our experience of working with the Nottingham Social Action Research Project (SARP) as an example. (Parts of this chapter draw on material published recently; see Boeck and Fleming, 2002.) Within SARP, we facilitated a process of learning and the development of ideas and concepts. We worked with the local workers and community members to increase their capacity to evaluate their work, particularly around social capital enhancement.

      This chapter briefly sets out some of...

    • FIFTEEN Learning the art of evaluation: presume the presence of politics
      (pp. 239-248)
      Georgie Parry-Crooke and Cathy Sullivan

      In tandem with the expansion of evaluation activity across all sectors has come an increased demand for teaching and training which involves those who will become ‘external’ evaluators and those whose main interest is in participatory and self evaluation within organisations. In the development of academic courses, as well as a wide range of other courses, which aim to convey succinctly the essence of evaluation as both theory and practice, the characteristics associated with evaluation activities may be seen as central to achieving agreed learning objectives. The nature of the interactions and contributions of evaluators and other social actors within...

    • CONCLUSION What the politics of evaluation implies
      (pp. 249-252)
      Susan Balloch and David Taylor

      Evaluation has become a routine exercise in many central government programmes and increasingly is a requirement for voluntary and community groups receiving project funding. The pragmatic monitoring that this requires has often encouraged a concentration on the techniques of audit at the expense of reflection on the significance of evaluation, its relationship to research and the theoretical concepts on which it is often shakily based. This volume has tried to redress some of this imbalance through a wide-ranging discussion of the politics of evaluation grounded in real examples.

      The conference from which this volume grew expressed considerable scepticism and pessimism...