How to evaluate the governance of transboundary problems? Assessing a national counterterrorism strategy

M. Noordegraaf*, S.C. Douglas, A. Bos, W.M. Klem

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Wicked problems present major challenges for evaluation as they cross the boundaries between countries, policy domains, organizations, and scientific disciplines. They force evaluators to study large networks in order to trace extended chains of cause and effect. However, beyond this category of ‘regular’ wicked problems that cross boundaries, there is another class of even more complex problems that truly transcend boundaries. Problems such as terrorism, the global financial crisis, and climate change transcend distinctions between cause and effect, local and global problems, fact and impressions. These issues represent a class of transboundary wicked problems that are not about local challenges and uncertainty, but about globally connected events and ambiguity. We draw on the literature on wickedness, ambiguity, and transboundary issues, to formulate a transboundary evaluation approach capable of assessing the governance of these extremely complex problems. The usefulness of this perspective is demonstrated through our evaluation of the Dutch national counterterrorism strategy 2011–2015. We detail: (a) the evaluation framework which provided focus in a diffuse transboundary field; (b) the evaluation principles which guided us as evaluators; and (c) the evaluation conditions which allowed us to engage and empower the actors being evaluated. These components can together bolster the relevance and competence of evaluators in a complex world.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-406
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • counterterrorism
  • wicked issues
  • evaluation principles
  • transboundary wickedness


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