The importance of monitoring and evaluation is emphasized both at the international (Sustainable Development Agenda 2030, UNGASS Outcome document 2016) and European level (EU Drug Strategy 2013-2020, EU Drug Action Plan 2017-2020). Indeed, policy evaluations inform the evidence base during each stage of the policy cycle - ex ante, ex nunc, ex post -. This is in turn is essential for policy making (EMCDDA, 2017a)
Over the past two decades, more and more EU member states have evaluated their national drug policies (EMCDDA, 2017b). However, these evaluations vary greatly in type and scope. Process evaluations are the most common (EMCDDA, 2004, 2017c). The focus of this type of evaluation is mainly on examining the degree of implementation of national drug policies (Galla et al., 2006; Moreira et al., 2007; National Audit Office, 2012; Trautmann & Braam, 2014; Trautmann et al., 2011), although attention is also paid to criteria such as 'relevance' (Culley et al., 2012), and 'coherence' (Muscat & Pike, 2014) of policies.
However, quite a few of those European evaluation studies indicate that methodological limitations, a lack of tools for monitoring and evaluation, as well as a lack of baseline data, prevent a more comprehensive evaluation (Galla et al., 2006; Trautmann & Braam, 2014; Trautmann et al., 2011). Outcome and impact evaluations of a national drug policy therefore remain limited for this reason (EMCDDA, 2017c; Home Office Government, 2017; van Laar & van Ooyen-Houben, 2009).
Taking into account the results of previous European, including Belgian, evaluation research on drug policy, we therefore propose a two-pronged approach.
On the one hand, EVADRUG will conduct a general process evaluation of the entire Belgian drug policy, based on a theory-driven evaluation approach. This type of evaluation focuses not only on how a policy works, but also for whom and in what context a policy works.
On the other hand, we will conduct a process, output and - if feasible - outcome evaluation of a selection of integral and integrated interventions within the pillars of the Belgian drug policy (Prevention; Care, risk reduction and reintegration; Enforcement).
Objectives of the project
The EVADRUG research has a fourfold objective:
- To develop an evaluation framework suitable for the evaluation of Belgian drug policy.
- To conduct a process evaluation of Belgian drug policy.
- To conduct a focused process, output and - if possible - outcome evaluation of some integral and integrated interventions within Belgian drug policy.
- To formulate recommendations with respect to the Belgian drug policy and the specific interventions.
Building on the methodology of previous European evaluation research, this research project aims to achieve its research objectives based on a multi-method approach, combining quantitative and qualitative methods to obtain a more complete picture (Creswell & Clark, 2017; Trautmann & Braam, 2014).
The EVADRUG research therefore consists of four work packages:
WP 1: The first work package focuses on the development of an evaluation framework for the process evaluation of Belgian drug policy. This evaluation framework consists of five logic models: schematic representations of how a policy aims to achieve its objectives. For each of the three pillars (Prevention; Care, harm reduction and reintegration; Enforcement) and the two overarching axes (Integral and integrated drug policy; Epidemiology, evaluation and research of Belgian drug policy), a logic model is developed. These logic models will be developed based on an analysis of relevant policy documents and expert consultations.
WP 2: Based on these five logic models, we will - in a second work package - conduct a comprehensive process evaluation of Belgian drug policy. Here we will focus on both the implementation and the coherence of current policies. For this purpose, relevant process indicators will first be identified, and then measured through both qualitative and quantitative methods.
WP 3: In order to provide a more in-depth evaluation of Belgian drug policy, a third work package will focus on the evaluation of a number of specific, integrated and comprehensive interventions within Belgian drug policy. In this work package, we will not only focus on a process evaluation, but also on the output and, if the data allow it, on the outcome.
In a fourth and final part we will, based on the findings and an additional focus group, make policy recommendations regarding the Belgian drug policy and the specific interventions.
The added value of this project lies in particular in the process evaluation of Belgian drug policy. After all, policy evaluation can not only advise policy in decision-making, it can also be useful to allocate resources efficiently, inform on successes and shortcomings, and provide transparency and accountability (EMCDDA, 2017a; UNODC, 2017).