Stakeholders and perspectivism in qualitative policy evaluation: A realist reflection

Authors: Porter, S. and Shortall, S.

Journal: Public Administration

Volume: 87

Issue: 2

Pages: 259-273

DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9299.2008.01735.x

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Authors: Porter, S. and Shortall, S.

Journal: Public Administration

Volume: 87

Issue: 2

Pages: 259-273

eISSN: 1467-9299

ISSN: 0033-3298

DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9299.2008.01735.x

This paper examines the epistemological bases for the inclusion of stakeholders in policy research. While it concedes that the input of stakeholders provides essential expert and experiential knowledge for the understanding of complex policies and programmes, it contends that the approach which assumes that all interpretations of policy including those of stakeholders should be afforded equal validity, which we term relativist perspectivism, undermines the possibility of robust research by allowing power to replace methodological rigour as the primary research dynamic. It is noted that this problem tends to be more acute when the research is qualitative. A study into the gendered effects of Common Agricultural Policy reforms is used as an illustrative example of how research can be compromised by relativist perspectivism. It is argued that realist research methodologies uniquely provide the capacity to maintain epistemological robustness, while also being able to take due account of the perspectives of stakeholders. © 2009 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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