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Toward a Platinum Standard for Evidence-Based Assessment by 2020


Sanjeev Khagram is Wyss Visiting Scholar in the Harvard Business School's Social Enterprise Initiative, on leave from his faculty position in public affairs and international studies at the University of Washington. His scholarship focuses on interdisciplinary research and evaluation, governance in a globalizing world, political economy, sustainable development and human security, networks and crosssectoralproblem solving, corporate citizenship, and civil society. He was recently selected a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum.

Craig W. Thomas is an associate professor in the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington. His current research focuses on collaborative governance, performance management, environmental policy and management, and institutional adaptation to environmental change. He also serves as editor of the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory.


The authors argue for a scientifically rigorous, contextually valid, practically relevant, and stakeholder-inclusive Platinum Standard for evidence-based assessment to improve public administration and third-party governance in the twenty-first century. The Platinum Standard would encompass two contending gold standards. The first gold standard, based on experimental methods, counterfactuals, and average causal effects, is better known and more institutionalized in practice. The second gold standard, based on case studies, comparative methods, triangulation, and causal mechanisms, is less known. The Platinum Standard incorporates both sets of standards and provides a framework for integrating them in practice. It recognizes the wide array of goals and methodologies that are appropriate for assessing the performance of public administration and third-party governance initiatives in a dynamic and globalizing world. The two gold standards currently compete for prominence in the field of evidence-based assessment. By 2020, these gold standards should be part of a more inclusive Platinum Standard.