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The History of the Future: evaluating projects and service developments before they begin

Markland, Margaret, Butters, Geoff and Brophy, Peter (2007) The History of the Future: evaluating projects and service developments before they begin. Performance measurement and metrics, 8 (1). pp. 34-40. ISSN 1467-8047

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Abstract

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to describe an evaluation tool, “The History of the Future” exercise, which can be used at the beginning of a project or service development to clarify variation in participants' presuppositions and expectations. Design/methodology/approach – The paper describes what the tool is, the context in which it is useful, how it is presented and administered, and what kinds of results can be expected. It places it within the corpus of qualitative methods, relating it particularly to phenomenography. Findings – A case study of the application of the method is used to illustrate its use and the results, which it can generate. A complex European Commission funded research and development project, eMapps.com, provided a challenging environment for its use and helped to verify its utility. Practical implications – The exercise is a particularly useful activity at the beginning of a large or complex project, which has multiple stakeholders, especially when they form a widely dispersed community. It addresses the fact that different stakeholders may come to the project with different understandings, expectations and priorities, and aims to provide focus and common understanding of project aims and objectives. Originality/value – Evaluations rarely start early enough in a project to exert significant influence on outcomes. The History of the Future exercise is one way to provide very early information on differing perceptions and goals among those involved and so to establish full agreement on purpose, tasks and desired outcomes.

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