Strategic Planning for Economic Develpment: A Suggested Model for Program Evaluation

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Strategic planning and economic development have been widely discussed and debated in the scholarly and practitioner literature of public administration. There are several reasons for this attention. Economic development has become one of the important emerging domestic policy areas in recent years (Luke et al., 1989; Eisinger, 1988). In addition to the vital nature of its policy, economic development is significant to public administration because its implementation increasingly involves the use of entrepreneurial methods (Clarke and Gaile, 1992), often requiring complex interactions between government and business. This partnership of the public and private sectors affects the manner in which public policy is developed and programs delivered (Kettl, 1993).

Strategic planning, on the other hand, has been widely discussed because it is an innovative and flexible planning technology. One of its applications is the identification of public policy alternatives. The increased use of strategic planning methods appears to be altering the way public administrators approach planning problems and policy formulation.

Economic development and strategic planning have also been examined jointly. When the two topics are linked, as in this symposium, the result is a widely-used method by communities and organizations to select specific economic development initiatives and alternatives. Economic development and strategic planning, either individually or in combination, have become an integral part of the study and practice of public administration especially on the state and local level. While the merging of economic development implementation and strategic planning appears to be a highly workable approach to the practice of public administration, another component, however, is required to complete the picture of public administration and public policy.

The implementation of programs like economic development and the use of planning methods like strategic planning are only two phases of public administration's function in the policy process. Denhardt (1995:239), for example, identifies an "important and recurring cycle for public managers" in the development and delivery of public policy. The third composition of Denhardt's cycle is program evaluation. Planning, implementation, and evaluation represent the complete cycle of public administration according to Denhardt: planning for programs; putting them into action; and assessing their success.

While strategic planning and economic development have been successfully linked as an application of public administration, program evaluation is often the neglected part and is needed to complete the cycle. In fact, evaluation seems to be the forgotten element in many discussions of public administration and the policy process (see Skok, 1995, for an example).

This article suggests a structured and systematic role for program evaluation in the strategic planning of economic development. The research question in this article, involving the full cycle of public administration described by Denhardt, focuses on a specific public policy area: economic development. How can strategic planning techniques be used with program evaluation methods to assess more accurately the outcomes of an economic development program? Denhardt's description of the cycle of public administration provides the conceptual framework for this inquiry. Planning, implementation, and evaluation are examined simultaneously and are seen as connected elements of the public administration cycle rather than separate segments, as is often the practice. A holistic approach to public administration research, then, is used in this article.

The basic plan is to merge some concepts oF local economic development policy and strategic planning methods within a framework of program implementation and evaluation. A goal of this article is to build on Denhardt's foundational model of the "cycle of public administration" and suggest a method of approach that practitioners and researchers can use to evaluate the implementation of a multifaceted economic development programs formulated by a strategic planning process. …