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Two Reflexive Methods for Evaluating Public Policy Practice in Urban Network Contexts: Learning History and Learning Evaluation

  • Michael DuijnEmail author
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Part of the Palgrave Studies in Sub-National Governance book series (PSSNG)

Abstract

This chapter explores policy evaluation that is used to inform new policy practice. Two reflexive methods for evaluating public policy practice—Learning History and Learning Evaluation—are introduced and discussed in a theoretical and practical sense. The potential value of these methods is discussed by showing their recent application to complex urban issues. The reflexive and constructivist nature of policy evaluation must lead to results that are recognised by target audiences and will lead to conclusions that can be supported by them. As such, the learning impacts of the study itself can be maximised. By deliberative inclusion of the target audiences, researchers can organise how they might productively contribute to the evaluation study at hand, without violating “common rules of good science”, or changing the evaluation instruments or results. Learning from evaluation refers to the wish to identify or initiate visible change, often presented, of course, as an improvement of the evaluated public policy practice and its artefacts (objectives, resources, relations, skills, etc.). Both methods appear to be capable of actively stimulating and facilitating learning for public policy practice through evaluation. Both learning evaluations and learning histories must be deployed in a learning manner. Through an iterative research process—of targeting, applying, reflecting, readjusting, and reapplying—in-depth insight into the evaluation issue will be gained from different perspectives, held true or relevant by the target audiences. For public policy professionals involved, both learning evaluations and learning histories appear to be safe research procedures for sharing their knowledge of and experiences with “what was going on”. Naming, shaming, and blaming of events, people, or agencies are avoided because the multi-perspective approach of both methods shows vividly that there are more sides to the story, taking the evaluation and the subsequent discussion away from conclusions that are too easy or too hasty.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Public Administration and SociologyErasmus UniversityRotterdamThe Netherlands

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