Sustainable Development, Evaluation and Policy-Making
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Sustainable Development, Evaluation and Policy-Making

Theory, Practise and Quality Assurance

Edited by Anneke von Raggamby and Frieder Rubik

This pathbreaking book contributes to the discourse of evidence-based policy-making. It does so by combining the two issues of policy evaluation and sustainable development linking both to the policy-cycle.
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Chapter 14: Evaluation Quality in the Context of Sustainability

Thomas Widmer


___________________________________________________ INTRODUCTION Evaluation is understood here as a research-based service for the systematic and transparent assessment of an object. By now, evaluation has become firmly established both as a profession and as a discipline (House 1993, pp. 73–90; Widmer and Beywl 2009; see Toulmin 1972). Evaluation is primarily concerned with performance, measures, products, programmes, projects and other objects for which no or limited market mechanisms exist. These tend to be objects that are related to public policies. Questions about the quality of evaluations have been of concern to evaluators and other interested parties for a long time. In evaluative activities, quality is a particularly important aspect since, as a research-based service, it is located in a tension-laden and conflictual area lying between the diverging demands, needs and expectations of various participants and persons concerned (stakeholders). Sustainability is a multidimensional concept that is widely used nowadays. It links economic, social and ecological dimensions and includes overarching perspectives such as intergenerational responsibility or equity (Jonas 1984, Leist 1991) and procedural quality found, for example, in the participative or deliberative democratic components in decision-making processes (Daly 1992; Thierstein and Walser 1997; Hirschi et al. 2002; Knoepfel et al. 2007; Meadowcroft 2009; see Nahrath and Martinella 2007). The current contribution focuses on the quality of evaluations in the context of sustainability. To this end, the next section discusses how the quality of evaluations may be understood. The section ‘Evaluation and sustainability’ discusses some of the difficulties inherent in dealing with sustainability itself in the...

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