This working paper sets out What Works Scotland’s early thinking on using the capabilities approach, as a conceptual framework to assess what communities want from their public services, and explains why and how capabilities is a useful approach to evaluate public service reform in Scotland.
The overarching purpose of What Works Scotland is to use evidence to transform public services for all of Scotland’s communities to flourish.
We seek to do this by bringing together evidence on the effectiveness of interventions and evaluating their ability to promote local change, both in Scotland and beyond, adopting a cross‐disciplinary and action‐oriented approach.
The aim of the What Works Scotland Capabilities and Outcomes Workstream is to utilise the capabilities approach, originally developed by Amartya Sen, as a conceptual framework to assess what communities want from their public services, and to evaluate the role and function of public services in promoting and safeguarding people’s wellbeing and social justice.
This initial document sets out our early thinking on this element of the What Works Scotland programme and explains why and how capabilities is a useful approach to evaluate public service reform in Scotland.
After a brief overview of context, the capabilities approach is explained, including its advantages over competing approaches to evaluation of social justice.
We then show how capabilities conceptually maps onto the four principles of the Christie Commission.
The paper then identifies four methodologies of capabilities assessment of policy in high-income countries, analysing two case studies for each, empirically demonstrating the compatibility of these with the Christie principles. The conclusion crystallises the distinctive contribution made by Capabilities to policy evaluation as demonstrated in the paper.
This paper will demonstrate not only how the capabilities approach can help further the Scottish approach to public service delivery but also when we say ‘what works’, the bases on which we are evaluating this.
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Publication date: March 2015
Type of publication: Working paper