Mechanisms Shaping an Evaluation System – A Case Study of Poland 1999-2010
A criticism of evaluation practice in regional policy in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) countries is that it stresses its function in terms of accountability and formal reporting on progress, rather than its role in policy or institutional learning. This article aims to test this critique through the use of ‘system thinking’ and focuses on the case of regional policy in Poland, where evaluation practice has developed dynamically since 2000. It contributes to the literature by developing an analytical framework that sets out the role of evaluation in regional policy learning and identifies key factors and mechanisms that determine the development of an effective evaluation system for regional policy. The analysis draws on all Polish evaluation studies conducted between 1999 and 2010, interviews with civil servants and experts involved in the implementation of cohesion policy programmes, as well as secondary data from earlier studies. The essay identifies key mechanisms and factors that determine the main function of evaluation as a learning tool that produces and utilises knowledge in the decision-making process. These main elements are: growth in funding of the policy; stability of institutions; motivators; and system architecture.