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Evaluation and innovation: Challenging the single narrative

Robert Picciotto

The advent of innovation as a privileged policy priority—in New Zealand as in the rest of the world—illustrates the power of the single narrative as a covert advocacy tool for the promotion of an ideology. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, a shifting conception of innovation has been used to reinforce the hold of private interests over public policy. This article exposes the artificial simplicity of this mental model through reference to economic theory and historical experience. Next, it unveils the dilemmas posed by intellectual property regimes and highlights the critical role that country institutional and policy contexts play in shaping the impact of innovation on society. Finally, it recommends rigorous assessments of innovation claims and illustrates the risks that the pervasive single narrative has imposed on evaluation practice.

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