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National environmental evaluation systems: guiding towards sustainability?
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology. (Umeå Centre for Evaluation Research)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4636-1886
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Background: Dealing with environmental threats is one of the largest, if not the largest, challenge contemporary societies face. One way to better deal with this challenge would be to produce knowledge that can be used to improve environmental work and environmental policy and thus ultimately contribute to sustainable development. National environmental evaluations, which this thesis explores, could potentially fill this function because they are supposed to generate applicable and useful knowledge for improving environmental policy and practice for a sustainable transition. However, what different environmental actors view as useful knowledge varies, and needs to be empirically investigated. Against this background, the aim of this thesis is to investigate whether, and how, national environmental evaluation systems contribute to key actors’ environmental work and sustainable development. The thesis explores two national environmental evaluation systems in Sweden.

Method: A mixed methods approach is applied that combines three methods. Firstly, a narrative synthesis is developed and applied to compile a list of sustainable development effects from national environmental evaluations. Secondly, a critical program theory is used to investigate the evaluation system’s underlying logic and to assess the likelihood of it achieving its intended effects. Thirdly, a directed content analysis is used to explore the usability and use of environmental evaluations and evaluation systems. The methods are applied to various documents, interviews with key actors, and observations at two environmental seminars.

Results: The results show that, to contribute to sustainable development in the context of evaluation systems and network governance, environmental evaluations need to be of sufficient quality and meet different stakeholders’ knowledge needs. However, only some evaluations meet this demand. The main value of national environmental evaluations and evaluation systems is that they reinforce the national objectives, provide a recurrent report on achievement of objectives, and push actors to take responsibility to improve their environmental work.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå Universitet , 2018. , p. 71
Series
Akademiska avhandlingar vid Sociologiska institutionen, Umeå universitet, ISSN 1104-2508 ; 80
Keywords [en]
environmental evaluation, evaluation systems, evaluation use, sustainable development, program theory, stakeholders, environmental policy
National Category
Sociology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-147745ISBN: 978-91-7601-897-2 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-147745DiVA, id: diva2:1206550
Public defence
2018-06-11, Hörsal E, Humanisthuset, Umeå, 10:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2018-05-21 Created: 2018-05-17 Last updated: 2018-06-09Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Effects on sustainable development from large environmental programmes: a review of 16 evaluations
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Effects on sustainable development from large environmental programmes: a review of 16 evaluations
2015 (English)In: Journal of Integrative Environmental Sciences, ISSN 1943-815X, E-ISSN 1943-8168, Vol. 12, no 2, p. 85-105Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The purpose of this article is to develop criteria for meta-evaluation and narrative synthesis of sustainable development (SD) effects from large environmental programmes. First the article develops the criteria and then demonstrates how these can be applied in the case of the Swedish Local Investment Programme targeting SD, through a review of 16 national evaluations. The review shows that the programme’s effects on SD are mixed: it contributed to halting degradation of ecological capital, somewhat to restoring ecological capital, and to increasing human, social, and manufactured capital. However, the programme also had some unintended negative and crowding-out effects on ecological and social capital, and on innovation. A methodological conclusion is that the evaluations lacked some essential information for assessing SD-effects. For example, more than half of the evaluations scored low on intervention effects, a key criterion in the review. Reviews of SD-effects need to compile knowledge from evaluations that use different approaches with varying quality. What is defined as acceptable quality determines if comprehensive conclusions of SD effects can be drawn.

Keywords
sustainable development, meta-evaluation, narrative synthesis, environmental programmes, programme effects
National Category
Sociology Political Science Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Sociology; statskunskap
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-100632 (URN)10.1080/1943815X.2014.1001857 (DOI)000359855800001 ()
Available from: 2015-03-05 Created: 2015-03-05 Last updated: 2018-06-07Bibliographically approved
2. Evaluation in management by objectives: a critical analysis of Sweden’s national environmental quality objectives system
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Evaluation in management by objectives: a critical analysis of Sweden’s national environmental quality objectives system
2016 (English)In: Evaluation, ISSN 1356-3890, E-ISSN 1461-7153, Vol. 22, no 2, p. 190-208Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article investigates what can be achieved by one particular management by objectives system – i.e. the Swedish National Environmental Quality Objectives system and its evaluation function. A critical programme theory analysis is first developed to reconstruct the programme theory of the National Environmental Quality Objectives system. Next, the robustness of the programme theory is analysed in terms of internal consistency, theoretical support and empirical support. The results indicate that, while some assumptions underlying the National Environmental Quality Objectives system are valid, the National Environmental Quality Objectives’ programme theory has low validity in several respects. The evaluative knowledge the system produces is only partly relevant to or useable by local actors and industry. While the state of the environment is observed and measured in the monitoring and evaluation reports, the direct effects of environmental policy and work are not evaluated, which is a main weakness of the National Environmental Quality Objectives system. It is unlikely that the current evaluation function can effectively support achievement of the National Environmental Quality Objectives environmental objectives. The article suggests that evaluations in support of network governance are more likely to support National Environmental Quality Objectives achievement and sustainable development.

Keywords
evaluation function, management by objectives, National Environmental Quality Objectives system, program theory analysis, the validity of the National Environmental Quality Objectives
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Research subject
Sociology; statskunskap
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-119543 (URN)10.1177/1356389016638751 (DOI)000374584600005 ()
Available from: 2016-04-22 Created: 2016-04-22 Last updated: 2018-06-07Bibliographically approved
3. Translations of knowledge from an environmental evaluation system: do they contribute to usability of evaluation knowledge?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Translations of knowledge from an environmental evaluation system: do they contribute to usability of evaluation knowledge?
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Keywords
knowledge translations, environmental evaluation, evaluation systems, stakeholders
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-147742 (URN)
Available from: 2018-05-16 Created: 2018-05-16 Last updated: 2018-06-09
4. Stakeholders' use of environmental evaluations (system) and their contribution to sustainable development
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Stakeholders' use of environmental evaluations (system) and their contribution to sustainable development
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-147743 (URN)
Available from: 2018-05-16 Created: 2018-05-16 Last updated: 2018-06-09

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