What counts is what works? Constructing evaluations of market mechanisms

Newman, Janet (2002). What counts is what works? Constructing evaluations of market mechanisms. Public Administration, 79(1) pp. 89–104.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9299.00247


This paper draws on a study of the introduction of market testing in the UK civil service to explore ways in which managers involved in the implementation of the new policy constructed evaluations of its impact. It is structured around three arguments. The first concerns the problems of evaluating 'what works' in the multi-stakeholder, multi-goal context of public management. The research highlights a range of overlapping and sometimes conflicting evaluation criteria across different organizational and occupational groupings. The second argument explores the difficulties of evaluation in the context of shifting policy objectives and the dynamic nature of institutional change. The research shows how the practitioners involved shaped and reshaped their construction of events over time as unanticipated benefits and disbenefits became evident. It also suggests ways in which they responded to the changing policy context, constructing new rules and norms of action over time. The third argument concerns the different levels of analysis underpinning managers' constructions of 'efficiency' and 'effectiveness', and how these constructions were deployed as strategies of legitimation in shaping the process of institutional change.

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