Published 18 December 2009

Evaluating business counselling

– a report on how the system for business counselling could be evaluated in its entirety

The Swedish Agency for Growth Policy Analysis (Growth Analysis) has been commissioned to present a proposal on how the system for business counselling could be evaluated in its entirety, and how a competitive market for business counselling could be evaluated. The assignment comprises: (1) proposing how the counselling system should be evaluated in its entirety, (2) proposing how a more competitive market for counselling should be evaluated, (3) proposing how data collection and documentation should be done, and (4) proposing what actors should do this work.

Business counselling shall, in basic terms, provide proposals and guidance on suitable approaches in business. However, there are different variants of business counselling and a way of classifying these different variants is to describe the counselling as consisting of three dimensions: (1) its type (general and specific advise), (2) its time aspect (temporary or more regular advice), and (3) its emphasis (starting, running and growing). 

Growth Analysis’ proposal on how the system for business counselling should be evaluated is divided into monitoring and effect evaluation. The part designated as monitoring should monitor and follow-up on operations. This part is operational by nature and should therefore be conducted by the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth and the regions in cooperation. An efficiency evaluation should identify the effects of the counselling and require a counterfactual approach that examines what would have happened if the advice had not been utilised. In order to carry out effect evaluations, detailed company and municipal data are needed and the companies that received counselling must be able to be identified. Effect evaluations should tentatively be conducted by Growth Analysis. 

Evaluating whether or not the market for counselling should be subjected to competition can involve contrasting companies that received counselling in one system with companies that received counselling in another system. This should tentatively be done with the help of an experimental design that randomly selects which companies receive counselling under the old and the new systems. This type of allocation of counselling and evaluation could take place in individual regions or nationwide. This way, a new system for business counselling can be gradually introduced nationwide and there would be reliable evaluations that show the new system’s advantages and disadvantages.

This report provides basic methodological starting points for a holistic evaluation of state-financed counselling and an overall discussion of conceivable program logic for a future evaluation. In an evaluation of the business counselling system, continued development of the programme logic is one of the central issues.