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Development and application of advanced quantitative methods to ex-ante and ex-post evaluations of rural development programmes in the EU

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Are rural development programmes really working?

An EU-funded initiative advanced the means for evaluating policies and outcomes related to rural development funding programmes.

Climate Change and Environment

The EU spends millions on rural development programmes (RDPs) across the region in order to upgrade industry and society beyond the cities. Heavy financing of farming and agriculture have sometimes been met with criticism with policymakers, citizens and other stakeholders asking how effective this support has been. The project 'Development and application of advanced quantitative methods to ex-ante and ex-post evaluations of rural development programmes in the EU' (Advanced-Eval) aimed at improving the evaluation of RDPs. It developed new quantitative methods using interdisciplinary approaches to model rural development and elaborated tools to evaluate policies. In addition, the project team amassed important research findings, theory developments and policy-relevant knowledge in the field. It considered mechanisms to look at the counterfactual state, i.e. the conditions that would be observed if RDPs were not applied. As most evaluations were qualitative, they did not always represent actual conditions. This is why Advanced-Eval developed quantitative tools to assess microeconomic and macroeconomic effects of RDPs. To measure living standards in rural regions, microeconomic effects of rural development were calculated using specific policy indicators while macroeconomic effects were calculated using a multidimensional rural development index (RDI). The project also proved that social networks were a key factor in determining rural development. It thus developed quantitative measurement of networks and social relations at political and academic levels to better reflect economic performance and growth. Moreover, Advanced-Eval considered ex ante evaluation of policies to be implemented in order to measure effective management planning and determine impacts after RDP completion. Project partners showed that the new quantitative methods and techniques offered more advantages than qualitative approaches commonly used for RDP evaluations, as they defined the magnitude and direction of effects. On the other hand, it acknowledged that no method was infallible, recommending a combination of qualitative and quantitative to ensure high-quality evaluation of RDP impacts. Lastly, the project recommended rankings for different methods and for different circumstances to optimise evaluations. In essence, this initiative will upgrade our understanding of the effects of RDPs and demonstrate more accurately the effectiveness of the funds spent.

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