The government recently released its monitoring and evaluation strategy for the Freeports programme. But what does the government plan to monitor and assess? The objectives and opportunities of the Freeports program are described in the strategy, but in summary they are:
- Establish free ports as national hubs for global trade and investment;
- Create epicentres for innovation with a focus on private and public sector investment in research and development;
- Promote regeneration through the creation of highly skilled jobs in ports linked to the areas around them.
- Trade and investment: potential to increase total UK trade, which has been declining in recent years;
- Innovation and productivity: the possibility of increasing business research and development expenditure, which is generally below the OECD average in the UK;
- Regeneration and upgrade: opportunity to revive disadvantaged British communities.
Next we have the Leveling Up white paper plans that underpin the Freeports program:
- “Productivity: boosting productivity, wages, jobs and living standards by developing the private sector, improving transport infrastructure, digital connectivity and R&D;
- Quality of life: expand opportunities and improve public services, improve education, skills, health and well-being;
- Pride in place: restore sense of community, local pride, secure pathways to home ownership and reduce crime;
- Leadership: empowerment of local leaders and communities, decentralization of power and more resilient institutions. »
Still with us? So, we bet you are now wondering – which of these elements will the strategy actually focus on? Well, uh, those would be the three main impacts of the Freeports program, which are “goal-aligned”. The three main impacts are:
- “increase commercial and economic activity;
- enable increased competitiveness, sustainability and productivity in the Freeport areas;
- creating jobs and raising wages in disadvantaged areas surrounding the Freeport areas. »
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the goals can be diluted by the myriad of results the Freeports program will hopefully achieve, but hey – the more achieved the better!
Although the monitoring and evaluation framework (which will be more detailed than the strategy) has not yet been published, the research questions described in the strategy to be used to collect the data will form the basis for monitoring and evaluation. evaluation, evaluation hoping to achieve insight into processes, impact and value for money. In addition to this, there will be 10 key “special interest” research topics for assessment, focusing on the Leveling Up white paper plans. This is intended to capture the implementation and overall impact of the Freeports program, but it appears that the questions may result in a more subjective than objective approach due to the abstract nature of some of these questions. In addition to this, theory-based and quasi-experimental approaches to evaluation are adopted, rather than relying solely on raw data. These approaches can leave the results open to interpretation and allow the data collected to be skewed, which is often an undesirable attribute when looking for accountability – although we know this is a very cynical approach to take and in l “Together we believe the Freeports program will be a success if fully exploited.
Either way, any issues with the strategy can still be resolved by publishing the framework, and it is true that the strategy clearly states that the ongoing monitoring and evaluation exercise will be an iterative process.
Watch this space for more information on monitoring and evaluating the Freeports program once the framework is released.