evaluation

Assessing the quality of a deliberative democracy mini-public event about advanced biofuel production and development in Canada

Holly Longstaff, David M Secko

The importance of evaluating deliberative public engagement events is well recognized, but such activities are rarely conducted for a variety of theoretical, political and practical reasons. In this article, we provide an assessment of the criteria presented in the 2008 National Research Council report on Public Participation in Environmental Assessment and Decision Making (NRC report) as explicit indicators of quality for the 2012 ‘Advanced Biofuels’ deliberative democracy event. The National Research Council’s criteria were selected to evaluate this event because they are decision oriented, are the products of an exhaustive review of similar past events, are intended specifically for environmental processes and encompass many of the criteria presented in other evaluation frameworks. It is our hope that the results of our study may encourage others to employ and assess the National Research Council’s criteria as a generalizable benchmark that may justifiably be used in forthcoming deliberative events exploring different topics with different audiences.

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A state of health? Constructive dialogue and the rhythms of international youth theatre

Simon Parry

This article examines youth theatre as a mode of promoting public dialogue within situations of political tension or conflict. It reflects on the author’s own experience of trying unsuccessfully to find a framework to evaluate an European Union supported theatre project, youth/art/peace/network, which took place in Austria, Israel and Palestine in the late 1990s. In the context of this reflection and the author’s attempts to address the challenge of finding an evaluative framework and mode of analysis, the article combines a critical account of Habermas’ notion of communicative reason inspired by Iris Marion Young with Lefebvre’s rhythmanalysis. It argues that understanding drama practices in rhythmic terms provides potential for evaluating the complex spatio-temporal relationships the practices might have with everyday life. Through focusing on the presences and absences of particular people and things, such evaluation shows up the risks of performing a misleading or coerced state of health. The article suggests that the problem in this case was underpinned by a restrictive or exclusionary understanding of constructive dialogue at odds with participants’ daily experience. However, the analysis also points more optimistically towards the potential of monologue and particular proxemics of co-presence in finding modes of performance to represent such experience.

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Assessing scientific citizenship through science centre visitor studies

Andrea Bandelli (JCOM)

As science museums and centres (SMC) broaden their practices to include the development of scientific citizenship, evaluation needs also to take account of this dimension of their practices. It requires complex methods to understand better the impacts of public participation in activities mediated by SMC, including their impacts on the governance of the SMC themselves.

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The problems with science communication evaluation

Eric Jensen (JCOM)

Even in the best-resourced science communication institutions, poor quality evaluation methods are routinely employed. This leads to questionable data, specious conclusions and stunted growth in the quality and effectiveness of science communication practice. Good impact evaluation requires upstream planning, clear objectives from practitioners, relevant research skills and a commitment to improving practice based on evaluation evidence.

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