By Richard Gunton, CECAN Fellow
3rd May 2022
Last month saw the publication of our paper outlining a new tool for evaluating policies and projects. This tool has been under development since my fellowship with CECAN in 2017-18, and its publication in the journal Ecological Economics is a milestone for our team. We’ve already had considerable interest in the paper, and now we are looking for an opportunity to pilot the framework in more depth with a policy organisation or business.
The tradition of ecological economics is apt for our work, since it’s concerned with valuing in ways that go beyond traditional market economics. This was brought home for me personally by a paper from 1998 in the same journal, “Weak comparability of values as a foundation for ecological economics”. That’s what we are trying to address: how to assess diverse kinds of value (or goodness, as we prefer to call it) that cannot be directly compared, and feed them into decision-making and evaluation processes that are scientifically informed, transparent and accountable. We seek a middle way between classical cost-benefit analysis, on the one hand, and unstructured deliberation processes, on the other.
The pluralistic evaluation framework (PEF) offers a structure for considering multiple kinds of process and impact, assessed according to multiple kinds of goodness, with input from multiple stakeholders. Those are the three pillars of our tool, which attempts to bring unity and balance to multifaceted evaluation scenarios by cutting across those pillars with a tried-and-tested set of philosophical categories. These categories cover ecological, cognitive, social and political concerns.
We have explored applications of the PEF in a regional planning scenario prone to NIMBY-ism (in the paper), and in sustainable agriculture (in a forthcoming book chapter). Next, we want to apply it in real time to a live policy or project, which will help us refine the tool and develop a user-friendly interface. We also envisage a text-mining tool that can produce a profile of value-types to characterise reports, publicity material and policy documents.
Please contact me (Richard.Gunton) @winchester.ac.uk if you have suggestions for a pilot project.
More about the pluralistic evaluation framework:
The new paper can be freely downloaded from the following link until 22 May: https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1erTK3Hb%7E0Wcsz