What is Value for Investment, and how should we evaluate it? (guest post from Julian King)

We’re very excited today to have a guest post from Julian King, who has just published a great FREE downloadable ebook on Value for Investment!

Julian’s Value for Investment approach is a syncretic blend of economic and evaluative methodologies, including evaluative rubrics. As you can see from the picture below, it’s a topic of great interest in this part of the world, and there’s nothing we like better than puzzling over these things together!

VfM workshop at Julian's

A fun meeting of the minds in Auckland, New Zealand – seven kiwi evaluators puzzling over Value for Investment – [from left] Fiona Cram, Kate McKegg, Jane Davidson, Judy Oakden, Nan Wehipeihana, Julian King (and Kataraina Pipi on camera duty!)

What is Value for Investment, and how should we evaluate it?


Julian King, author of the Value for Investment ebook

Tena koutou katoa, I am a New Zealand evaluator and a PhD student at the University of Melbourne.

In the run-up to AEA Denver, I have posted this e-book on evaluating value for investment: http://www.julianking.co.nz/downloads/

Why Value for Investment? A term more commonly in use is value for money – but in my experience this gives undue emphasis to the money. Often, the most valuable resources and outcomes are intangible.

For example, more is invested in a social program than funding alone – intangible resources like cultural capital, knowledge and networks also have intrinsic value. While economics offers ways of representing intangible value in monetary terms, there are times when this is neither necessary nor desirable.

Is there a better way? Yes! Whatever methods we use, what we need is an overarching model to guide evaluation of VFI. My proposed model combines economic and evaluative thinking and has four components: VFI logic, context-appropriate valuing, evaluation logic, and evaluation with integrity.

I look forward to your feedback and questions, and hope to see you at AEA at my roundtable session: Getting to the real value in ‘value for money’.


Nga mihi,

Julian King

3 comments to What is Value for Investment, and how should we evaluate it? (guest post from Julian King)

  • Zane Mather

    This is a big potential growth area for evaluation, I think. Evaluators could stand to learn a lot from economists, particularly in terms of the technical skills required for robust cost analyses, while economists could stand to learn a lot from evaluators in terms of a more ecumenical and democratic approach to considering ‘value’.

    The NZ Treasury’s approach to Higher Living Standards (http://www.treasury.govt.nz/abouttreasury/higherlivingstandards)is a step in the right direction – a lot for evaluators to engage with there!

  • I agree, Zane. Huge potential.

    And NZ Treasury really is doing some interesting and enlightened stuff that is a step in the right direction.

    One question I have, having ‘grown up’ in the industrial/organisational space, what are the fundamental differences between how I/O psychologists do ROI (a la Jack and Patti Philips – I know they look mainly at corporate training & development, but am wondering about the methodology rather than the content/context focus) vs how economists tackle cost analyses?


  • Couldn’t agree more, Zane! And you’ve hit the nail on the head in terms of a big opportunity for evaluators and economists to learn from each other. I hope that my evaluation-specific model offers a set of guiding principles for that to happen. Also very pleased NZ Treasury’s work is helping to broaden the dialogue.

    Jane, although I am not hugely familiar with Jack and Patti Phillips work, I have seen a book of case studies they produced where they measured return on investment (ROI) in various human resources contexts. My impression is that their work follows good conventional economic practice and principles from cost benefit analysis (e.g., discounted cashflow analysis of program costs and monetary benefits) – as well as bringing a deep understanding of the HR context and a wider research toolkit (e.g., qualitative methods). My sense is that there are plenty of economists would tackle this work in substantively similar ways. Others who are more familiar with their work might also like to comment.