Report

Qualitative methods and the evaluation of community renewal programs in Australia: towards a national framework

31 Oct 2006
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These programs have undertaken a broad mix of renewal activity, from physical redevelopment , to community oriented initiatives. Yet while a number of evaluations of these programs have been undertaken, the development of evaluation methodology has lagged behind that of other countries. The emergence of public housing estate renewal programs in Australia in the last decade has been one of the most prominent developments in social housing policy. These programs have undertaken a broad mix of renewal activity, ranging from outright physical redevelopment and stock replacement for sale, to community development type initiatives to improve social and employment outcomes for residents. However, while a number of evaluations of these programs have been undertaken, the development of evaluation methodology has lagged behind that of other countries. This in part is due to the lack of federal government interest or involvement in these programs which are essentially state specific. The article reviews the evaluations that have been undertaken in the last 10 years in Australia and assesses the relative importance of qualitative methodologies in these evaluations. Despite a strong focus among policy makers on value-for-money aspects of renewal, the authors show that qualitative methods have been commonplace, if limited in range, and argue this is a result of both the difficulty of obtaining comparative quantitative information especially when comparing dissimilar programs between states. In this context, qualitative methods are more easily managed by researchers and offer more insightful assessments than quantitatively based approaches. The article concludes by arguing for a national evaluation methodology to assist in more rigorous evaluations and the extension of qualitative evaluation methods.

 

Published in "Urban Policy and Research", pp115-126, Vol 24, No 1, March 2006

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2006
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