Evaluation and research in ‘real world’ policy settings

Professor Elliot Stern, Visiting Professor in School for Policy Studies

In a policy environment besotted with ‘evidence-based policy making’, evaluation is in vogue.  The promise of objective ‘facts, truth, and precision’ sounds like music to a policy maker’s ear. But it is a false promise. The multiple forces at play in the ‘real world’, the multiple lenses through which we can each see that world, and the multiple truths that come to bear on the creation, success and consequences of a given policy must all be constantly borne in mind. There are no easy answers.

At a recent event at the University of Bristol, Elliott Stern, editor of the academic journal ‘Evaluation’ and Matt Baumann, Principal Research Officer at the Department for Energy and Climate Change, explored the value of evaluation in the face of these many challenges.

Despite its many imperfections, evaluation is probably the best tool we have for assessing the impact of a policy intervention in the ‘real world’.

This blog is a summary of their presentations and the discussions that followed.

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Child Sexual Exploitation: Groundhog day

Dr Emma Williamson, Senior Research Fellow, School for Policy Studies

Dr Emma Williamson, Senior Research Fellow, School for Policy Studies

The report into the abuse and sexual exploitation of children and young people in Rotherham[i] whilst shocking, is not a surprise. The report comes in a long line of reports, inquiries, research, and reviews which are consistent in their findings. That victims have been ignored or not believed; that busy professionals have been unable (for a variety of reasons) to respond appropriately; that officials have not adequately prioritised the work of those on the front line; and that existing legislation is not being used even in cases where it could be, to tackle the sexual exploitation of children and young people.

As British actor Samantha Morton made clear in her recent interview, every incident of child sexual abuse is a life sentence for that individual, their families, and those around them.

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