Methods and tools for evaluating the impact of cohesion policies on sustainable regional development (SRDTOOLS)

Funded by: GHK International (European Commission)


January 2005 to December 2006

PSI researchers:

Background, summary and aims

Background and Introduction:
The research will examine and test methods and tools for supporting and informing public policy decision-making when seeking to determine between competing policy choices, where traditional policy tools break down. The major outcome of the project will be the presentation of a 'nested' approach to evaluation, differentiating the policy choices and attendant requirement for normative analysis.

The project builds on the recent EU thematic evaluation to develop methods for assessing the contribution of cohesion policies to sustainable regional development (SRD). This work applied the conceptual idea of sustainable development as non-declining capital stock. Using this model, trade-offs between different capitals (manufactured, natural, human, social) were identified, using regional case studies, to understand the degree to which regions were pursuing a sustainable development path and the contribution to cohesion policies. The work will develop further the understanding of trade-offs between different types of capital, and of critical thresholds, as well as extend the cases to regions in the accession countries.

Project Design:
The project will involve a range of research methods (including desk-based research, workshops, national evaluations) to complete the following distinct work packages:
· Review of the capitals model as an applied model
· Review of social welfare and SRD objectives in EU and accession countries
· Review of trade-offs and critical thresholds in EU and accession countries
· Review and testing of spatial planning tools
· Testing of the deliberation matrix in selected policy and political contexts
· Confirmation, recommendation and dissemination of tools for SRD

The potential impact of the research will result from the further development of the capitals model as a major organising system for sustainable development, and from the integration of an explicit approach to tackling the basic questions of weighting and aggregation that any complex policy decision has to face. The research will also contribute, among other things, to an improvement in evaluation culture; better integration of critical thresholds into decision-making; and better understanding of economy-society-environment interactions.