Gébert, Judit; Bajmócy, Zoltán (2014). 'The Evaluation of Local Economic Development Projects in High-income Countries - Analytical Framework and Application in Hungary' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.
The present paper explores the importance and value-added of the application of the capability approach in designing, monitoring and evaluating local economic development projects in high-income countries. In the first part of the paper we establish a dynamic analytical framework on capability expansion/reduction processes. This - contrary to the standard competitiveness analyses - places strong emphasis on the distinction between means, ends and conversion factors. Valuable functionings and conversion factors represent the policy area where tailored and appropriate place-specific and people-centred development projects can entail the maximum expansion of the different real freedoms and agency of local residents.
Our framework utilizes the achievements of the evaluation exercises of development initiatives in developing countries, which is heavily discussed in the literature. But it is fine-tuned for the developed regions of the European Union, where the legal possibilities of deliberative participation in urban development projects are already established. The process aspect of the design and implementation of local projects is also integrated in our dynamic analytical framework. Therefore, we pay distinguished attention to agency freedom and deliberative participation in urban development processes.
In the second part of our paper, three empirical case studies are discussed to demonstrate the application of this analytical framework to local economic development projects in Hungary. The three projects – modernization of a marketplace, building of a shopping mall and building of a spa – are evaluated with semi-structured interviews and the analysis of official urban development plans. Our research reveals the conversion factors, values, desires and aspirations of the local residents, which influence the use of local resources like urban spaces and a thermal water source. Our results also point out that – in spite of the legal possibilities – there is no real freedom for stakeholders to take part in the design and implementation of local development projects. We highlight the most important values and conversion factors, which influence this phenomenon. We also conclude that this set of information remains hidden in a standard competitiveness-based analysis, which is commonly used in the local policy areas of developed countries and is also proposed by the European Union.