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Evaluating the effectiveness of impact

assessment instruments:
Theorising the nature and implications of their
political constitution.

Matthew Cashmore (; Tim

Richardson; Tuija Hilding-Rydevik; and, Lars Emmelin.
Evaluating effectiveness.

The challenges of evaluation.

The high level of recent interest in evaluation has not been matched by work to
address significant epistemic (methodological) and conceptual uncertainties.

Research goal:
To advance the conceptual basis of evaluation.
In what ways, how and to what extent are IA instruments politicised?
What are the implications for evaluation theory?

January 23, 2010

Political science:
The meaning of politics.

Politics as the study of “who

gets what, when and how?”
(Lasswell, 1935).

Power expressed visibly as

coercion or violence, but also
more insidiously as taken for-
granted social norms and

January 23, 2010

Political dimensions of IA.

Political science.
Starting point in the analysis was to identify fundamentally political
characteristics of IA instruments.

Based on premise of engendering change in values underlying

policy formulation.
Governance norms draw boundaries around how policy issues
are framed, analysed and debated.
Concern distributional justice (e.g. allocation of resources) and

January 23, 2010

IA and governmentality.

Use of IA in developing a “new cognitive mapping of Lao nature and

society” (Goldman, 2001).
Reform predicated on an environmental ethic: biodiversity
International goals: served to open up Lao to Western business
National goals: dispossessed the non-Lao minority communities of
natural resources and livelihood.

January 23, 2010

Science as political culture:
Power in and through science.

Produce particular representation of policy issues through its

influence on the framing and interpretation of societal issues.

January 23, 2010

Science and the framing of policy

RGW [Robin Grove-White]: Do you think people are reasonable to have concerns
about possible ‘unknown unknowns’ where GM plants are concerned?
Advisory scientist: Which unknowns?
RGW: That’s precisely the point. They aren’t possible to specify in advance…
Advisory scientist: I’m afraid it’s impossible for me to respond unless you can give a
clearer indication of the unknowns you’re speaking about.
RGW: In that case, don’t you think you should add health warnings to the advice
you’re giving to ministers, indicating that there may be ‘unknown unknowns’ which
you can’t address?
Advisory scientist: No, as scientists, we have to be specific. We can’t proceed on
the basis of imaginings from some fevered brow…”

(Grove-White, 2001: 471)

January 23, 2010

Evaluating effectiveness:
A learning paradigm.

From measuring to understanding.

Effectiveness evaluation as a mechanism for giving voice to
plural interpretations concerning the design and use of IA
instruments, and to promote learning by deconstructing these
perspectives and analysing their meanings.

Support for an alternative framing in contemporary research:

Importance of social legitimacy in knowledge use;
Need for more honesty about constraints to knowledge use;
Importance of conceptual outcomes.

January 23, 2010