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Quantitative analysis at local and national level: getting it right and why it matters

Lookup NU author(s): Jan Walker, Dr Heather Dickinson


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The formulation of evidence-based policy necessitates rigorous, objective evaluation of policy initiatives and, consequently, there has been a significant growth in evaluation of social policy over the last ten years. Alongside this, there is a recognition that the application of new policy initiatives needs to be flexible in order to be relevant to local populations. As a result, pilots and pathfinders are encouraged to undertake local evaluations in addition to national evaluations commissioned by central government. These dual evaluations are seen as a vehicle to provide evidence on effectiveness whilst accommodating heterogeneity of needs and provision. We suggest that without clear delineation of roles, dual evaluations are inefficient, likely to put additional pressure on busy practitioners (and the recipients of new services) to comply with varying data demands, and present policy makers with confusing messages. In this article we focus on the potential for local and national evaluations to reach different conclusions by demonstrating how a simplistic application of quantitative techniques at local level can lead to inappropriate conclusions which contradict national findings. We make a number of recommendations that might facilitate better coordination of local and national evaluations.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Pennington M, Gray J, Donaldson C, Walker J, Dickinson H

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Public Policy and Administration

Year: 2012

Volume: 27

Issue: 2

Pages: 145-167

Print publication date: 20/09/2011

ISSN (print): 0952-0767

ISSN (electronic): 1749-4192

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.


DOI: 10.1177/0952076711403537


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