Handbooks of Research Methods and Applications series
Edited by Charlie Karlsson, Martin Andersson and Therese Norman
Chapter 25: Qualitative methods in regional program evaluation: an examination of the story-based approach
The attempt to identify what works and why are perennial questions for evaluators, program and project managers, funding agencies, policy makers and economic geographers interested in regional development (Greene, 2000; Feller, 2007). Policies, programs, plans and projects (hereafter all ‘programs’ for convenience) all start with good intent, often with long-term and usually over-optimistic goals. An important issue is how to assess the success of these programs during their life, often before their goals have been fully achieved. Thus some sense of interim performance is needed – to provide feedback to fine-tune the program; to determine whether subsequent tranche payments should be made; and to assist in decision making about whether similar programs, or projects within these programs, should be funded. Evaluation in such circumstances is complex. How can the achievement of goals be assessed if the goals are long term? Evaluation can not wait years to determine whether a program has been successful – answers are needed now to support decision making. Thus evaluation needs to consider carefully the program logic, whether interim steps have been achieved and whether there are signs that longer-term objectives and goals are likely to be achieved.
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