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Evaluation as the co-construction of knowledge: Case studies of place-based leadership and public service innovation

Howard, Jo; Flores, Arturo; Hambleton, Robin


Jo Howard

Arturo Flores


Jill Russell

Trisha Greenhalgh

Saville Kushner


Copyright © 2015 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited. This chapter introduces the notion of the 'Innovation Story' as a methodological approach to public policy evaluation, which builds in greater opportunity for learning and reflexivity. The Innovation Story is an adaptation of the case study approach and draws on participatory action research traditions. It is a structured narrative that describes a particular public policy innovation in the personalised contexts in which it is experienced by innovators. Its construction involves a discursive process through which involved actors tell their story, explain it to others, listen to their questions and co-construct knowledge of change together. The approach was employed to elaborate five case studies of place-based leadership and public service innovation in the United Kingdom, The Netherlands and Mexico. The key findings are that spaces in which civic leaders come together from different 'realms' of leadership in a locality (community, business, professional managers and political leaders) can become innovation zones that foster inventive behaviour. Much depends on the quality of civic leadership, and its capacity to foster genuine dialogue and co-responsibility. This involves the evaluation seeking out influential ideas from below the level of strategic management, and documenting leadership activities of those who are skilled at 'boundary crossing' -for example, communicating between sectors. The evaluator can be a key player in this process, as a convenor of safe spaces for actors to come together to discuss and deliberate before returning to practice. Our approach therefore argues for a particular awareness of the political nature of policy evaluation in terms of negotiating these spaces, and the need for politically engaged evaluators who are skilled in facilitating collective learning processes.


Howard, J., Flores, A., & Hambleton, R. (2015). Evaluation as the co-construction of knowledge: Case studies of place-based leadership and public service innovation.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2015
Journal Advances in Program Evaluation
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Volume 15
Pages 207-227
Series Title Advances in Program Evaluation
Series Number 15
Keywords innovation, place-based leadership, storytelling, co-construction of knowledge, engaged scholarship
Public URL
Publisher URL