The assessment of efficiency and account for the social context of the study are both crucial elements that require critical consideration. The former is relevant due to the fact that the benefits that emerged as a result of a policy implementation might not outweigh the costs, rendering the whole endeavor practically not worthy of the effort. The tools that might assist researchers in measuring efficiency are mainly represented by cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analyses which have certain important aspects to consider. Both of them can be conducted ex-ante (before implementation) and ex-post (after implementation), which speaks to their flexibility.
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The rationale for ex-ante analysis consists of predicting the efficiency of a program before initiating it so that there is a choice between adjusting, leaving it intact, and expanding it. This element is more crucial because it allows saving resources in case adjustments are needed as compared to the ex-post situation when changes could be costly (Rossi, Lipsey, & Freeman, 2003). Ex post analysis is useful when a program has limited predictability. In both cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analyses, there is a need to select an angle that can review the program’s efficiency from the standpoint of different stakeholders (Brannen, 2017). It is also noteworthy to mention that certain programs, due to their high relevance to society or a particular group, should be implemented regardless of the results of an efficiency assessment. In such a scenario, the goal of using this instrument is to anticipate whether additional funding is required (in the case of ex-ante).
The insights from chapter 12 include the need for considering the social context of the study and various aspects pertaining to policy significance. Social ecology is essential to be aware of and evaluate, as the relationship between the stakeholders of an implemented program can often be complex and involve multiple opinions. Taking this into account, considering major sides’ relationships that might be conflicting is crucial for the policy’s success which makes it a relevant part of a study. Political processes are also a key part of the context, which obliges the researchers to consider what effect results will elicit.
Thus, in the example provided by Rossi et al. (2003), the difference in estimations and the final number of the homeless in Chicago for a social policy triggered harsh public criticism. Therefore, there is a reason to address conflicting claims and frame provocative data in order for the results of a study not to create a negative reception from society before the policy is implemented. Policy significance will be, to a certain extent, dependent on the current policy space, which is a range of alternative solutions to a given problem (Murphy, 2017). By assessing major “competitors” and changes that occur in the contemporary world, researchers may assess the significance of their study. For instance, policies related to reforming penitentiary systems had different agendas in the 1990s and 1970s, which demonstrated the regard given to the solutions that were outside of the general contemporary scope.
Brannen, J. (2017). Mixing methods: Qualitative and quantitative research. London, UK: Routledge.
Murphy, E. (2017). Qualitative methods and health policy research. London, UK: Routledge.
Rossi, P. H., Lipsey, M. W., & Freeman, H. E. (2003). Evaluation: A systematic approach (7th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.