Rethinking the operationalization of broad prosperity

Towards the integration of local values into the ex-ante evaluation of Dutch transport policies

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With what objectives do policymakers make transport policy? This fundamental question is subject to a paradigm shift within transport policymaking in the Netherlands. There is an increasing call to let go of the predominant focus on economic well-being and consider a broader notion of well-being instead. However, how exactly this 'broad prosperity' should be operationalized and integrated within ex-ante policy evaluations remains a challenge.

Therefore this thesis aims to aid this integration of broad prosperity, by suggesting an alternative approach to operationalizing broad prosperity. One that moves away from the content (i.e. what should it include) and towards the process (i.e. how should it be determined). By approaching broad prosperity as a context-dependent and normative concept, effective value-oriented participation becomes the vehicle to integrate broad prosperity into ex-ante policy evaluations. Through literature review and expert validation, this approach is translated into a practical framework with 5 categories of 11 process-related criteria. It is suggested that these criteria together constitute an effective integration of broad prosperity into ex-ante policy evaluations.

By performing desk research and semi-structured interviews, this practical framework is then applied to the ex-ante evaluations of two Dutch transport projects: the Meerjarenprogramma Infrastructuur, Ruimte en Transport (MIRT) projects Oeververbindingen Rotterdam and A15 Papendrecht-Gorinchem. The results suggest that while broad prosperity is being used to some extent in Dutch ex-ante policy evaluations, there is still room for improvement. The great efforts to reduce the information asymmetry among participants, appreciate the participants' knowledge, and ensure all participants' contributions within MIRT processes, suggest that the projects are on their way to integrating broad prosperity. The main areas for improvement include the limited influence of local stakeholders on project objectives and scope, the transport-oriented scope of the (MIRT) process, and the extent of representative value-oriented participation.

Future research could examine how to further improve in these areas, address the challenges of a process-based approach, improve the practical framework, or expand the data collection. Overall, a process-based approach to broad prosperity that prioritizes effective value-oriented participation is a promising direction for a more holistic transport system that better serves everyone's values.