Key words: Policy analysis, Policy evaluation, Evidence based policy, Policy advice, Policy advisers, Policy work, Think tanks, Qualitative Comparative methods, Evaluation methods


Research projects in which I am involved:

What explains variation in policy evaluation capacity across public sector organisations?

In this evidence based era, the benefits of policy evaluation for rational and accountable decision making are almost considered common sense. All OECD countries, in the last decades, have taken major steps forward in institutionalizing the policy evaluation function in their executive and legislative branches of government. Various national evaluation capacity building trajectories can be discerned, though, which are shaped by different internal and external pressures for evaluation.

Despite increased attention for the evaluation function, little systematic cross-country comparative research has been carried out in this area. This comes at the cost of developing a sound cumulative body of knowledge about evaluation capacity, not only at the country level but also at the level of individual public sector organizations, i.e. where evaluation practices actually take shape.

In absence of systematic cross-country research, the question remains to what extent organizational evaluation capacity is influenced by the national governance setting in which an organization operates, or whether sectorial or organizational attributes are instead more decisive. The present research addresses this puzzle. As government departments or public agencies are ultimately in charge of conducting (or outsourcing) evaluation studies, it is imperative to have a comprehensive understanding of how variation in organizational evaluation capacity can be explained. By shedding more systematic light on the conditions that foster or impede the evaluation capacity of public sector organizations, we hope to contribute to more evidence based evaluation capacity building.

The research builds further on my PhD (KU Leuven, 2014), in which I analyzed organizational variation in policy evaluation activity in the Flemish public sector (Belgium). 

Government, Academics and Policy Making (GAP): Use of scientific evidence by civil servants

The GAP project (Governments, Academics, and Policymaking) starts off from the perceived gap between science on the one hand, and policy on the other. In a larger comparative effort, a survey has been launched in a number of countries (such as the UK, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Lithuania). The focus is on knowledge utilisation by ministerial officials.

Policy work and policy advice by think tanks and political party think tanks

As part of the book project Policy Analysis in Belgium (Eds. Marleen Brans and David Aubin), one of the volumes in the Policy Press's International Library of Policy Analysis (Eds. Iris Geva-May and Michael Howlett) I have conducted research about the policy work conducted by think tanks and political party study centers in Belgium. In the meantime, research findings have also been published in other outlets, and have paved the way for more in depth and cross-country research about the topic.

H2020 Project ITS4Land 'Geospatial Technology Innovations for Land Security in East Africa'

This project delivers an innovative suite of land tenure recording tools that responds to sub Saharan Africa’s immense challenge to rapidly and cheaply map millions of unrecognized land rights in the region (Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia). Established local, national, and international partnerships drive the project results beyond R&D into the commercial realm.  Its4land combines an innovation process with emerging geospatial technologies to deliver land recording services that are end-user responsive, market driven and fit for purpose. The transdisciplinary work also develops supportive models for governance and capacity development. My task is to contribute to the latter objectives.

Coordinator of the project is University of Twente. Other partners are Universität Münster (Germany), KU Leuven (Belgium), Hanse Luftbild AG (Germany), Institut d'Enseignement Superier de Ruhengeri (Rwanda), Bahir Dar University (Ethiopia), Technical University of Keny (Kenya), Esri Rwanda (Rwanda).

As Leiden University staff member I work as subcontractor for KU Leuven.

Impact Evaluation ESF Interventions: ‘Trainings in Firms’.

Under which conditions do ESF funded training projects in firms generate more (or less) value? In this evaluation, commissioned by the Flemish Department of Work and Social Economics, we address this question by relying on a cutting-edge theory based impact evaluation, and by relying on state of the art management and organizational research. Unique about the evaluation is the systematic combination of QCA and process tracing, which are two methods that have only been seldom combined in an evaluation setting. Beyond the investigation of the leading evaluation question, we also want to draw lessons about the application of these methods in an evaluation context.

Research team: Bart Cambré (Antwerp Management School), Benoît Rihoux (UCLouvain), Priscilla Alamos Concha (UC Louvain), Josephine Foubert (Department Work and Social Economics, Flemish Government), and myself. We can further benefit from input from the following theoretical experts:  Ans De Vos (Antwerp Management School), Joep Konings (KU Leuven and Nazarbayev University), and Patrick Kenis (Tilburg University); and the following methodological experts: Barbara Befani (University of Surrey, UK) and Derek Beach (Aarhus University, Denmark)

The evaluation runs from October 2017-February 2020

Evaluatie Wet Kinderombudsman (Evaluation of the Law on the Netherlands' Ombudsman for Children)

Joint evaluation by different institutes of Leiden University: Youth Law; Educational Sciences; and Public Administration.  The research is commissioned by the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development.

The study aims to assess the effectiveness and (side) effects of the law on the Children’s Ombudsman in practice. It looks at the objectives of the legislator: monitoring of children’s rights, executing a complaints procedure, focusing on the entire youth field and participation of children – and how these have been achieved with the introduction of the law. A distinct part of this study forms an inventory of the organisational embedding of the children’s ombudsman in other countries. The rationale is to draw lessons from international comparison for the Dutch Children’s Ombudsman.

The evaluation ran from July 2016 until April 2017.

Past research projects

The following is a list of research projects in which I was involved at KU Leuven (2007-2015).

Jury: Marleen Brans (supervisor, KUL); Annie Hondeghem (KUL); Christopher Pollitt (KUL); Frédéric Varone (Université de Genève), and Benoît Rihoux (UCLouvain). 

The PhD was shortlisted for the Jaarprijs Politicologie 2014, the annual prize for the best PhD dissertation, defended in the Netherlands or Flanders; a joint initiative of the Dutch and Flemish Political Science Associations NKWP and VPW.