Formative Evaluation and regional Transformative Innovation policies: The case of Shared Agendas in Bages, Catalonia

Estimated Time
20 minutes
Resource Type
Blog
TIPC Region
Europe
Published
2024

This blog by Ani Choudhury and Sandra Boni sets out how a Formative Evaluation approach, using Transformative Outcomes, was applied to the development of regional Transformative Innovation policies in Bages, Catalonia. It is based on a publication on formative evaluation and regional policies for Transformative Innovation produced by Sandra Boni, Diana Velasco, Míriam Acebillo-Baqué, M. Lluïsa Sort-García, Xavier Gironès-García and Jordi Molas-Gallart.

Since 2020, INGENIO (CSIC-UPV) has collaborated with the Generalitat de Catalunya (Catalan Regional Government) and other key actors to support the development of a conceptual and methodological framework for Shared Agendas (SA). The Shared Agendas in Catalonia are embodied in RIS3CAT, the Research and Innovation Strategy for the Smart Specialisation of Catalonia. The case of Shared Agendas in Bages is one of three cases that have been the subjects of collaboration.

 

What are Shared Agendas?

Shared Agendas are a form of transformative innovation intervention, developed throughout the Catalan territory, aimed at understanding and addressing complex local challenges.

The main features of Shared Agendas are that they:

  • start from strategic challenges and shared diagnoses, and are based on intersectoral collaboration and knowledge generations between different actors, to understand and manage complex problems;
  • focus on action for change, transformation and collective impact, sustained over time, and employ adaptive strategies that actively respond to unexpected effects and developments, successes and failures; and
  • promote the design and experimentation of possible solutions and alternatives to address challenges.

Shared Agendas are a multi-actor framework and involve collective action among different actors through the coordination of participatory governance models. They involve bringing together the different groups and actors affected by the local challenges addressed, with the aim of reproducing successful solutions or implementing them on a larger scale — and of connecting these with further global strategies and agendas.

 

Introducing the case of Bages

Prior to the collaboration with INGENIO, the Catalan Regional Government defined and framed a number of local challenges that it sought to address.

One significant local challenge in Manresa, the capital of Bages, is the ageing population, with a life expectancy of 82.57 years — above the Catalan average. Bages, located in the centre of Catalonia, has witnessed a rise in health conditions linked to older age.

The Regional Government brought together different groups from universities, hospitals, research centres and start-ups within the technological innovation sector through a series of preliminary events. Actors shared concerns around the future implications of the ageing population for people and their families, leading to the development of a transformative innovation intervention using the Shared Agendas approach.

In 2020, TIPC team members from INGENIO were invited to collaborate on the project. They introduced a Formative Evaluation theory of change, utilising Transformative Outcomes. Once the collaboration began, INGENIO supported actors in working together, promoting the concept of Shared Agendas.

 

What was INGENIOS’s role?

INGENIO worked with the Catalan Regional Government to apply the Formative Evaluation methodology to tackle the challenges posed in Bages. This methodology prioritises the clarification of aims and outcomes, and the creation of a monitoring, evaluation and learning plan.

In addition, early in the collaboration, INGENIO and the Regional Government, created a map of actors, identifying the main actors and their relationship to other elements of the system, and set out the main outcomes pursued, refining these through the lens of Transformative Outcomes, a critical component of the Formative Evaluation methodology. The team employed Transformative Outcomes as a tool to provide a sense of direction to the intervention and to hone in on specific goals. The team also concentrated their efforts on developing a theory of change.

 

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Key learnings and highlights from the collaboration

The following reflections on the collaboration were outlined in the published paper on the process (en español): 

  • In the future, it would be beneficial to develop greater clarity between actors on the interventions. It is important that the Transformative Outcomes that actors wish to achieve are discussed and agreed upon more explicitly. This will help to provide directionality to interventions, and to link these to the long-term social and environmental objectives that define their impact. In addition, it is essential to revisit — and if necessary, modify — Transformative Outcomes, as well as results, assumptions and associated activities.
  • The Shared Agendas approach is an inclusive co-creation process, which requires a significant investment of time, which may inevitably introduce delays within the process and exclude certain participants who do not have the necessary dedication. This is an important limitation for the generalisation of Formative Evaluation processes to different contexts that must be considered and reflected upon. Therefore, the dedication of time and resources must be clear from the beginning, and a positive disposition towards the formative aspect of the evaluation. If participants do not see the benefits of iterative reflection on an intervention, and spending time defining its direction, it is not advisable for them to get involved in a Formative Evaluation process.
  • Particular skills, competencies and attitudes — such as listening skills, empathy, and humility — are required by the evaluation team and must be complemented by the knowledge of theory and an understanding of facilitation and methodology development skills.

Acquiring and cultivating skills in the field of evaluation and research is crucial to adapting or expand this approach to other contexts.

 

Next steps

At present, there are no immediate follow-up actions planned for the Shared Agendas of Bages. However, as part of the Research and Innovation Strategy for the Smart Specialisation of Catalonia (RIS3CAT), INGENIO will facilitate a workshop to provide training to all actors involved in the general architecture, covering theories of change, Formative Evaluation and Transformative Innovation Policy.

While INGENIO may not directly work on every project across Catalonia, empowering actors with training will enable them to independently implement the Shared Agendas approach.

Furthermore, a doctoral thesis is presently under development by María Lluïsa Sort, a participant of the Shared Agendas project, stemming from the work in Bages. The thesis is being supervised by Sandra Boni of the TIPC INGENIO team.

 

Conclusion

The Shared Agendas of Bages is a good example of how interdisciplinary collaboration can be beneficial for developing Transformative Innovation policies at a regional level to address complex local challenges.

The project illustrates that Formative Evaluation can be an ally, yet certain preconditions are required to see the full potential of the approach. The case of Shared Agendas in Bages is a demonstrator for other possible interventions in parts of Catalonia with the support of the Smart Specialisation Strategy (RIS3CAT).

Authors/Contributors
Citation

Choudhury, A., Boni, A (2024) Formative Evaluation and regional Transformative Innovation policies: The case of Shared Agendas in Bages, Catalonia. Available at https://tipresourcelab.net/resource/transformative-innovation-to-address-complex-local-challenges-the-case-of-shared-agendas-for-bages/

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