Evaluating infrastructure project planning and implementation: A study using qualitative comparative analysis

Many evaluations of infrastructure projects rely on methods that ignore the complexity of the projects. Although case studies are attentive to project complexity, it is difficult to identify general patterns that would apply to a larger sample of projects. Qualitative comparative analysis is a method that preserves the complexity of projects and generates insights across cases. In this contribution, we discuss our experiences with using qualitative comparative analysis for the evaluation of the planning and implementation of complex infrastructure projects. We will provide a short introduction into the main properties of the method (complex causality, systematic comparison) as well as describe some of the main operations (calibration, truth table analysis, interpretation). This will serve to demonstrate why qualitative comparative analysis is a fitting evaluation method in project development and implementation. Next, we will show how we used the method in a research project that aimed to find out under what conditions unplanned events in the implementation of infrastructure projects were dealt with satisfactorily, that is, what it took to respond to these events in an apt manner. Based on our experiences, we will summarize main lessons learned for conducting qualitative comparative analysis proper and provide suggestions for further reading.

Publication | Verweij, S. & Gerrits, L.M. (2019). Evaluating infrastructure project planning and implementation: A study using qualitative comparative analysis. Sage Research Methods Cases, 2, 1-16.

Call for papers: Case-oriented & set-theoretic approaches to comparative policy analysis

Together with Eva Thomann and Valérie Pattyn, I invite you to submit a paper proposal for our panel Case-Oriented and Set-Theoretic Approaches to Comparative Policy Analysis at the International Conference on Public Policy (ICPP4) in Montreal, organized by the International Public Policy Association. The deadline for your paper proposal is January 30th, 2019. More information about the Call for Papers can be found here. If you have any questions about the call, please do not hesitate to contact me.

The policy process is characterized by a considerable degree of complexity regarding institutional settings, actor and preference constellations, policy goals, contents, and tools. Simultaneously, there is a practical demand for better knowledge of “what works” in public policies and under what conditions or in what contexts. In order to better match methods with theories and empirical realities, the analysis of public policies faces several challenging tasks (Brans & Pattyn, 2017). First, it needs to model the complexity that characterizes the policy process and trace the underlying mechanisms. Second, comparative policy analysis detects regularities and achieves a modest degree of generalization. Finally, comparative policy analysis often deals with small or intermediate numbers of cases.

Case-oriented and set-theoretic approaches to comparative policy analysis, such as Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA), Coincidence Analysis (CNA), explanatory typologies, and comparative process tracing, are designed to address these challenges. Situated within a “critical realist” paradigm of social research (Gerrits & Verweij, 2013), they model different aspects of causal complexity, such as configurations of different factors leading to policy outputs or outcomes, equifinality (multiple configurations can result in the same outcome), contextual contingencies, and causal asymmetry. Moreover, they can be applied within a variety of small-N or large-N research approaches to evaluate as well as generate theories through a combination of systematic comparison with targeted in-depth case studies (Thomann & Maggetti, 2017). As interactive and iterative methods, they also lend themselves to interpretative comparative analysis (Brans & Pattyn, 2017).

Set-theoretic and case-oriented methods are increasingly common in comparative policy analysis (see e.g., Rihoux et al., 2011; Thomann, 2019), particularly in policy implementation and evaluation research (Gerrits & Verweij, 2018; Pattyn et al., 2017). This panel gathers both theoretical, conceptual, and empirical contributions that deal with the state of the art of case-oriented and set-theoretic approaches and illustrate their potential and limitations to contribute to the theory and practice of policy analysis.

Meerwaarde door PPS: Welke meerwaarde?

Publiek-Private Samenwerking (PPS) in de transportinfrastructuur is populair vanuit het idee dat samenwerking meerwaarde zou opleveren voor de betrokken partijen. Sterker nog, het zou meerwaarde opleveren die anders niet bereikt kan worden. Maar de wens lijkt de vader van de gedachte. Het bewijs voor meerwaarde door samenwerking in PPS is schaars.

Publicatie | Verweij, S. (2018). Meerwaarde door PPS: Welke meerwaarde? Agora, 34 (3), 34-37.

Slim investeren in netwerken: Oude infrastructuur, nieuwe kansen

De Nederlandse infrastructuur is van hoge kwaliteit en betrouwbaar, maar wel verouderd. In zijn recent verschenen rapport Van B naar Anders: Investeren in Mobiliteit voor de Toekomst voorspelt de Raad voor de Leefomgeving en Infrastructuur dat de kosten voor onderhoud zullen en moeten toenemen. Dat kan neerkomen op 350 miljard euro extra de komende decennia. Niet voor niets noemt minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen (Infrastructuur en Waterstaat) het vervangen van infrastructuur de grootste opgave ooit in Nederland. Want de winkel moet tijdens de verbouwing wel open blijven. Kansen dus voor slimme investeringen.

Publicatie | Neef, M.R., Verweij, S. & Busscher, T. (2018). Slim investeren in netwerken: Oude infrastructuur, nieuwe kansen. ROmagazine, 36 (7-8), 8-11.

The evaluation of complex infrastructure projects: A guide to qualitative comparative analysis

Our book is now available at Edward Elgar! The book can be ordered at the website of Edward Elgar (here) with a promotional discount of 35% using the code “VIP35” (valid in July 2018).

Infrastructure projects are notoriously hard to manage so it is important that society learns from the successes and mistakes made over time. However, most evaluation methods run into a conundrum: either they cover a large number of projects but have little to say about their details, or they focus on detailed single-case studies with little in terms of applicability elsewhere. This book presents Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) as an alternative evaluation method that solves the conundrum to enhance learning.

“Disentangling within-case complexity is a challenging task; even more so if one examines multiple cases. Gerrits and Verweij brilliantly demonstrate, using the latest conceptual and technical innovations, and through the concrete example of infrastructure projects, that QCA can produce qualitative leaps in taking on this challenge. This book is a must-read for researchers, evaluators, and practitioners who take both complexity and comparison seriously.” – Prof. Dr. Benoît Rihoux, Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium

Publication | Gerrits, L.M. & Verweij, S. (2018). The evaluation of complex infrastructure projects: A guide to qualitative comparative analysis. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

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