Studies on Innovative Practices
Edited by Mattias Elg, Per- Erik Ellström, Magnus Klofsten and Malin Tillmar
Chapter 18: Three approaches to impact evaluation of regional development
The intervention impact problem is challenging (Svensson et al., 2013). What, if anything, may indicate a positive connection between an intervention and an outcome? How can one discern the particular effect on society or nature of the intervention, when there are many other potential causal factors involved? Furthermore, an intervention often consists of several components. Which component, or combination of components, has contributed to the results? In addition, an intervention may play out over decades. Exactly when have its major contributions occurred? And finally, through what mechanisms have these outcomes ensued? In the evaluation community, there is great disagreement about how the effects problem should be addressed. Some argue that randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are the gold standard that should be used wherever possible, although matched controls, admittedly weaker, are deemed acceptable if RCTs cannot be carried out. However, since these two types of experimentation are often ill-fitted, infeasible or ethically unacceptable in real-world public sector circumstances, most evaluation theorists endorse the application of other designs, such as intensive case studies (for an overview see Vedung, 1997 , p. 170; Vedung, 2013, p. 46; Rossi et al., 1999, pp. 234–363), realist evaluation (Pawson, 2006, 2013) or, more recently, contribution analysis (Mayne, 2012).
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