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The Evaluation of Complex Infrastructure Projects

A Guide to Qualitative Comparative Analysis

Lasse Gerrits and Stefan Verweij

Infrastructure projects are notoriously hard to manage so it is important that society learns from the successes and mistakes made over time. However, most evaluation methods run into a conundrum: either they cover a large number of projects but have little to say about their details, or they focus on detailed single-case studies with little in terms of applicability elsewhere. This book presents Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) as an alternative evaluation method that solves the conundrum to enhance learning.
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Lasse Gerrits and Stefan Verweij

An increased uneasiness with more traditional evaluation methods in the realm of infrastructure development from our side coincided with the incipient arrival and broader acceptance of Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) in the social sciences. Evaluations are pivotal in societies’ attempts to become better – and we use that term here on purpose – at planning, constructing, and operating infrastructures. There is a catch, however. If evaluation methods and techniques have a botched understanding of the complexity of infrastructure projects, it is unlikely that they will lead to learning effects. After all, what use does an evaluation have if an individual project manager, contractor, or consultant believes that ‘it doesn’t apply here because our project is different’? QCA offers an opportunity to bridge the gap between the complexity of single projects and the identification of general trends across a larger group of projects. This book aims to open up the method to anyone working with such projects – regardless of being a government official, a consultant, or an academic – in order for it to be put to good use in evaluations.

This book gave us an opportunity to bring together several of our passions: complexity, research methods, and research with a direct relevance in today’s society. We would not have been able to get here without the help of a variety of people and we would like to use this opportunity to thank them. First of all, we are indebted to those who helped us in furthering our thoughts – in various occasions leading up to this book – about QCA, evaluation, and complexity: David Byrne, Sofia Pagliarin, Valérie Pattyn, Benoît Rihoux, Ariadna Ripoll-Servent, Carsten Schneider, Geert Teisman, and Barbara Vis. We are particularly grateful to the people who painstakingly reviewed earlier versions of this book: Nikolaus Jopke, Richard van Milt, Martin Wirtz, and Wouter Spekkink. Their thorough reviews led to many changes to the text. We hope to have met their standards. In addition, we would like to thank our colleagues at Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Otto-Friedrich University Bamberg, and the University of Groningen for their support of our work.

Last but definitely not least, we would like to thank our families for their patient and unwavering support. It is more than we deserve. Karen, Kwang, and Trihn: thank you so much!

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The research for this book was funded by the Next Generation Infrastructures (NGI) research program (grant no. 03.24EUR). This book was further supported by the long-term research cooperation between Rijkswaterstaat and the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, and by the TechnologieAllianzOberfranken (TAO) in Germany.