Friday, June 10, 2005

Economic Baselines - why bother???

An argument against baselining that I have often heard is “available statistics can’t tell us about the impacts that our policies or projects have”. That is partially correct – they can’t tell you about the direct impacts. However, they can signal changes in a local economy that may either be down to your policies, or that your policies had better take account of and respond by changing. Too often this argument is used as an excuse for not doing anything(!). And then, when evaluating your programme 10 years later when it has already been substantially delivered, you have to unpick a whole lot of data and information that you could have started work on… 10 years ago! If you plan a baseline and monitoring of your activities and projects you will start to collect and analyse relevant information. If the information isn’t there you can make an informed plan and decision on how to capture information.

In sum, baselines are useful in the following ways:

- At the simplest level, a baseline is a tool for monitoring change and impacts of your projects or policies. It will not authoritatively nor directly measure these impacts, but it will make a useful contribution.
- Economies change, and so should your responses to these changes – if you have no way of tracking these changes, its much harder to respond in a timely and appropriate manner.
- Linked to this is the fact that your policy might be flawed or inappropriate (or maybe directly relevant) to the local economy. Unless you do some kind of study, you will never know this.
- Another link is in designing the balance of resources, provision and targets. If you budget for assisting 10,000 small businesses, but there’s only 5,000 in your local economy then you need to reallocate/rebalance. Similarly you can do this on the basis of economic priorities, needs and opportunities – a baseline can help identify all of these.
- A baseline helps you think about what you need to know to deliver or monitor your policy or project. You identify information needs, then look at available indicators and intelligence and are able to identify gaps.

Any more anyone?


Post a Comment

<< Home