The Pluralistic Evaluation Framework: A Workshop for People in Policy Impact Appraisal


Pluralistic Framework

The Pluralistic Evaluation Framework: A Workshop for People in Policy Impact Appraisal

Tuesday 3rd July 2018, 11:00 - 16:00 

University of York


When a problem is to be solved in a complex environment with a diversity of stakeholders, how can a policy be democratically justified as “good” use of public funds? How can we appraise policies in a more concrete way than resorting to vague general value judgements such as “enhanced” and “improved”? A comprehensive policy evaluation ought to analyse what good outcomes might mean to different stakeholders in a given context.

The pluralistic evaluation framework is a high-level approach to policy design, appraisal and evaluation that aims to be balanced, accountable and compatible with existing approaches such as those advocated in the UKNEA. It is based on a comprehensive theory of valuing as presented by Richard Gunton and colleagues in a 2017 publication (Trends in Ecology & Evolution 32:249-257). This provides 12 categories of value, which are both independent and comprehensive. The relative “goodness” of changes to an ecosystem may be assessed on all these axes from the perspective of specified stakeholders, recognising the diversity of interests at stake. This framework is especially relevant to democratic policy evaluation because of its two core questions: (1) Which stakeholders have interest in a specific situation? and (2) How do they appreciate the situation? – eliciting what they would consider as “good” or “improved” policy outcomes. The pluralistic evaluation framework thus offers an alternative to the impersonal focus on ecosystem services or different kinds of “capital”, instead focusing on stakeholders and their values. This is highly policy-relevant as the Government’s 25-year Environment Plan seeks to roll out a natural capital approach to environmental management while the Clean Growth Strategy simultaneously focuses on financial capital and carbon – all under the pressure of other societal challenges.

This workshop will provide an introduction to the pluralistic evaluation framework and the thinking behind it. Insights from the workshop will also feed in to further tool refinement. By the end of the day, participants can expect to gain:

  1. Techniques, skills and a template for policy design, including familiarity with a general values framework for assessing any policy issue
  2. Improved skills for more transparent public communication on policy development
  3. Progress in their current areas of policy development and evaluation
  4. Ideas and opportunities for the interpretation and implementation of the 25-Year Plan and other high-level documents, operationalising their “values” emphasis.


Provisional schedule:
11:00: Arrivals and coffee; delegate packs handed out
11:15: Welcome and Introduction (Prof. Sue Hartley, YESI)
11:30: Talk on background and general approach (Dr Ian Christie, CECAN)
12:00: Group work: specifying problems, objectives and stakeholders (over coffee)
12:30: Presentation of the framework (Dr Richard Gunton, CECAN)
13:00: Group work through the stages of the framework (over lunch)
14:45: Feedback (synthesis) from groups
15:00: Plenary discussion (Prof. John O'Neill, Manchester Univ.)
15:45: Summing up, feedback forms and close


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