EVALUATION IN THE PLANNING DISCOURSE

EVALUATION IN THE PLANNING DISCOURSE

Thorbjoern Mann

INTRODUCTION

I have spent some effort on the task of exploring what a better discourse, process, and platform for public planning would look like. A platform for ‘unprecedented’ planning projects, crises, emergencies and policies that affect people in several or many traditional governance units (e.g. countries). Projects that call for more intensive public participation and for which traditional decision-making customs are increasingly inapplicable. One of the insights that have become increasingly clear is that evaluation will play a key role in these processes. Not only for the task of evaluating a proposed plan, for example, to decide whether to reject or adopt it for implementation, but all through the process, in various forms.

The assumption is that public planning discourse should be aiming at decisions that can be seen as based on the quality and merit of contributions to the discourse, rather than mere voting results that give no indication of the extent to which voters were adequately informed, nor of the quality, completeness and reliability of the information they relied on.

There are well-intended techniques for assessing that quality that tried to make better use of new information technology tools, but efforts that left me unconvinced, for various reasons. They led me to the suggestion that the nature and role of evaluation in the planning discourse deserves a more comprehensive review. This should be an effort involving many disciplines. Lacking funding and institutional support for a more comprehensive project, I can currently do no more than to sketch a kind of overview of the various facets of evaluation, a context map in which I can place some of my own ideas for discussion, but perhaps become the draft of an agenda for further work?

I intend to post a series of blog entries showing an ‘agenda map’ of various aspects, partial tasks, and controversial questions, for discussion, starting with a first rough grouping of themes and questions that will be explored in more detail in subsequent posts.

There are serious approaches to planning and problem-solving ‘on the market‘ of new ideas that can be seen as questioning the very need for systematic, thorough evaluation procedures. So it may be necessary to examine my hypothesis — that improved evaluation is necessary — by raising it for discussion. One topic will have to deal with the basic concept, understanding and and rationale for evaluation. A second set of questions will provide an overview of concepts, tools, and other requirements for carrying out evaluation activities, using a few examples of current approaches. This will serve as the source for closer examination of a number of controversial issues and new ideas that arise in the discussion of evaluation and for which more research and better solutions are needed. Finally, an attempt will be made to formulate a collection of preliminary insights from the discussion, and suggestions for what one might actually do ‘today’ in an actual planning or policy-making case, given our current knowledge and tools — of course, also for discussion.

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2 Responses to “EVALUATION IN THE PLANNING DISCOURSE”


  1. 1 abbeboulah November 27, 2019 at 7:25 pm

    The gist of the first reaction to this confirms the perception that there are sentiments, movements, ‘approaches. that question the need or appropriateness of, shall we say, ‘systematic’ evaluation efforts. Instead, one way of summarizing those views may be that adopting certain principles, habits, mindsets will make ‘methods’ unnecessary: the ‘right’ solutions will ’emerge’ from the collective where that mindset has been achieved. What questions does that raise? =

  2. 2 abbeboulah November 28, 2019 at 5:01 pm

    Peter: I can’t get more details about whether and how more specific evaluation tools are applied in this approach, without signing up for workshops etc. (E.g in the ‘Beta-test’ phase where as I understand it a ‘solution’ has been generated). What gets across for the material I see is one more example of
    a) consulting-based approach (small groups) to prepare would-be leadership to take on issues, with the general promise
    b) that the ‘change of awareness’ (induced in this approach by learning how to ‘see’) will enable the group to generate the better solutions and decisions.
    My questions are really aimed at the likelihood that in public discourse about larger issues, there might be (as I think we already see in abundance) many different ‘awareness’ directions competing for attention, each with their own leadership groups and notions about how decisions will be arrived at or ‘emerge’. Which to my Fuddy-duddy mind calls for some ‘deliberation’ (a different word for evaluation?)


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