Photo: Three Bridges; author Ljubljana Turism

Shaping the Future through Evaluation: Spotlight on the 5th Western Balkans Evaluation Conference

Bojan Radej
4 min readJun 30, 2023


This blog post highlights the design and significance of the 5th Western Balkans Evaluation Conference in Ljubljana, Slovenia (29–30 September 2023). The conference centers around the theme “Evaluating the effects of public policies — principles, methods, and practices.” It will aim to explore various aspects of evaluation in the context of public policies. The blog discusses the scope of the conference, the accepted proposals, the presentation categories, and the interactive elements that will make this event intellectually even more stimulating for the participants.

Conference Overview

The call for papers for the conference was released in February 2023, drawing inspiration from previous conferences held in Zagreb (2017) and Belgrade (2019). By aligning with these successful events, the organizers sought to maintain continuity and build upon the previous discourse. The conference will aim to examine the principles, methods, and practices employed in evaluating the effects of public policies, encouraging participants to address critical questions related to systemic evaluation issues, theoretical and practical aspects of evaluation, international activities of evaluation communities, and the activities of the regional network.

Accepted Proposals and Distinguished Speakers

The program committee accepted over 25 high-quality proposals from countries within the region, as well as from Poland, the Netherlands and the USA. The organizers are grateful to authors for their valuable contributions, which are expected to generate significant interest and foster lively discussions among the participants.

Two distinguished speakers were invited to share their expertise at the conference. The first speaker, Professor Dr. Liljana Rihter from the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Ljubljana, possesses extensive knowledge of impact evaluation, having authored numerous studies in the field of social work. The second invited speaker, Professor Dr. Janja Hojnik from the Faculty of Law, previously served as the vice-rector for quality at the University of Maribor and has been actively involved in the evaluation of research work.

Presentation Categories and Themes

The presentations scheduled for the conference were divided into two main categories: methodological issues and European affairs. European affairs presentations included the evaluation of the project establishing the Geological Survey for Europe, the evaluation of the effects of drawing funds from the European Social Fund in Croatia, and a series of presentations relating to spatial development and territorial impact assessments.

The methodological issues presentations can also be further categorized into two groups. The first group encompasses presentations on two evaluation concepts, namely Outcome Harvesting and Key Horizontal Principles, along with two proposals for planning and impact evaluation methodologies.

The second and largest group centers around four methods of inclusive participatory evaluation. Each of these presentations suggests distinct approaches to synthesizing the opinions of multiple participants into concise evaluation findings. The presentations advocate for the synthesis using narrative approaches, transcriptional analysis of interviews aided by Artificial Intelligence, and the Most Significant Change (MSC) approach. The tools for inclusive participatory impact evaluation will be presented at the conference, including SenseMaker and Outcome harvesting (Voices That Count, Belgium/Slovenia), Most Significant Change (ResultsinHealth), and AILYZE (MIT — Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA).

Evaluative Synthesis

The organizers expressed their satisfaction with the conference’s emphasis on the synthesis of diverse inputs into evaluation findings. This emphasis is of particular interest to the Slovenian Evaluation Society, having dedicated 15 years to developing a method for synthetic evaluation of public policy effects, finds great encouragement in witnessing the growing interest in synthesis across a broad range of approaches. The conference will facilitate discussions among participants to compare and contrast various evaluation synthesis approaches, thereby fostering knowledge exchange and mutual complementarity among diverse aspects of participatory evaluation. The conference is expected to develop a collaborative effort that holds promise for advancing evaluative synthesis and enhancing the effectiveness of evaluation practices in the region.

By fostering discussions, comparisons, and exchanges among participants, the conference creates a platform for knowledge sharing and collaboration. This is particularly beneficial for the region, as it facilitates the exchange of ideas and experiences related to evaluation synthesis. Such interactions can lead to the identification of best practices, innovative approaches, and potential adaptations that are relevant to the specific context of the region.

Furthermore, the emphasis on participatory evaluation and mutual complementarity aligns with the principles of inclusivity and diversity, which are crucial for promoting effective evaluation in any region. By encouraging a broad range of perspectives and methodologies, the achievement of emphasizing synthesis contributes to a more comprehensive and robust evaluation framework for the region.

Overall, this conference holds significant importance for the region. It has the potential to enhance the quality and effectiveness of evaluation efforts in the region, leading to improved policy-making, program development, and social impact.





Bojan Radej

A methodologist in social research from Ljubljana; Evaluator. Slovenia. Author of "Social Complexity" Vernon Press, 2021.