Title: Organizational capacity for policy evaluation activity. In search of necessary conditions
Authors: Pattyn, ValĂ©rie
Brans, Marleen
Issue Date: May-2014
Conference: Workshop on Policy Capacity location:Zheijang University, Hangzhou, China date:22-23 May 2014
Abstract: More than ever, policy capacity sits at the centre of the governance agenda. The global fiscal crisis posits high challenges to governments’ ability to make efficient and effective choices for the allocation of resources to public ends (Painter and Pierre, 2005: 2). The fiscal crisis has not only intensified existing trends towards a professionalization of policy making (Brans and Vancoppenolle, 2005), but also reinforces the need to have a systematic understanding of policy capacity.
In our contribution, we address one dimension of the policy capacity research agenda: policy evaluation capacity. Evaluation has been given a prominent position in government
modernization reforms worldwide (Brans and Vancoppenolle, 2005), as an essential analytical tool for professional governments. Yet, despite general consensus on the intrinsic
value of policy evaluations for good government, we can observe large variety in actual organizational evaluation activity. Evaluation capacity building studies cover a substantial subarea in the evaluation literature. Unfortunately, this is not matched by systematic
evidence on the relative importance of various capacity building dimensions. This contribution tackles this empirical void.
We present the results of a study of policy evaluation activity of twenty nine organizations of the Flemish public sector (Belgium). Internationally compared, Flanders belongs to the second wave of countries (regions) where policy evaluation has only been generally introduced since the new millennium (Varone, Jacob and De Winter, 2005). This makes it an interesting case to study how policy evaluation activity, and the underlying capacity, is given shape. We apply a multidimensional approach to evaluation activity, and distinguish between three dimensions: conduct of evaluations; regularity of evaluations; and quality of
evaluations. For each of these activity dimensions, we investigate the ‘necessity’ of a large range of conditions, that we derived from the evaluation capacity building literature (i) evaluation resources (evaluation skills, pool of external evaluators, monitoring data, evaluation budget, evaluation staff); (ii) evaluation culture (evaluation demand coming from sector minister, from organizational management, from civil society organizations, from
parliament, and in-house support for evaluations); (iii) institutional characteristics of the organization (autonomy, size, evaluation unit, evaluation requirements); (iv) policy issue characteristics (salience; competition on tasks, measurability of outputs and outcomes) and (v) legacies (pre-reform evaluation experience, organizational stability and ministerial stability). Necessary conditions should be understood as factors that enable the presence or
absence of evaluation activity. Qualitative Comparative Analysis (Ragin, 2006) provides the technical tools to reveal these conditions and especially to indicate their relevance. The findings are inspirational to enhance the policy evaluation capacity of governments.
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa
Appears in Collections:Public Governance Institute

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