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By Graham Room

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Extra resources for Cross-National Innovation in Social Policy: European Perspectives on the Evaluation of Action-Research

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Only on this condition can he design and implement a rigorous experiment. Very different is the situation where the policy-maker faces a 'problem' whose nature and dynamics are unclear; where conventional practice has encountered serious anomalies - or even come into a state of crisis - because the fundamental assumptions on which it is based are no longer capable of guiding and justifying it;3 and where the various actors involved actively contest the objectives of conventional policies and articulate alternative scenarios of political intervention.

The literature on action-research reflects these disagreements as to the value and, indeed, the very definition of action-research (Town, 1973; Lees and Smith, 1975); it is consequently much less easy to summarise the principal elements of 'action-research' than it was in the case of the 'pilot experiment'. It is therefore worthwhile - indeed, it is necessary - to start off by recalling some of the dilemmas and tensions encountered by these earlier efforts at action-research: dilemmas and tensions which help to account for the disorder in the literature.

92--4). Secondly, the two paradigms have a radically different interest in the process by which policies are implemented. Evaluators working within the dominant paradigm study this process in order to assess the extent to which the authorised programmes were actually carried out and were targeted at the intended population. 'Process evaluation' serves a twofold function: at a scientific level, it enables the evaluator to know how far the 'impact' he has observed can actually be attributed to the programme which was authorised; at a political level, it enables the policy-maker to increase his managerial control and the accountability upwards of those who implement his decisions.

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