Evaluation for Radical Democratic Transitions
Through applied research, evaluation can provide a means for learning and generating democratic debate about social justice alternatives. This builds on the ideas of Erik Olin Wright in ‘Envisioning Real Utopias’ in which he proposes a framework for understanding the foundations of emancipatory alternatives to capitalism and the existing practices that inform them. This paper develops this for evaluation purposes, based on documenting the harm and causal processes of existing structures and the context in which a grass-roots initiative is operating; formulating alternatives by systematically testing the plausibility of alternative approaches through the practice of the particular grass-roots initiative; and using this knowledge to develop strategies for transformation through democratic debate. This connects with Edgar Pieterse’s concept of ‘radical incrementalism’, which is the notion that improvements to people’s everyday circumstances can lay the basis for future improvements, providing a basis for a radical inductive framework grounded in people’s daily lives.
As alternatives can be produced through everyday actions, evaluation methods are required that can reveal, analyse and support such situated practices. This paper will draw on case study research in Manchester that is based on contextualised, participatory and creative methods that include storytelling, photography, co-design of info-graphics, ethnographic film, deliberative workshops and in-depth biographical narrative interviews.