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Assessing the effectiveness of business support services in England: evidence from a theory based evaluation

By Kevin Mole, Mark Hart, Stephen Roper and David S. Saal


In England, publicly supported advisory services for small firms are organised primarily through the Business Link (BL) network. Based on the programme theory underlying this business support services we develop four propositions and test these empirically using data from a new survey of over 3,000 English small firms. Our empirical results provide a broad validation of the programme theory underlying BL assistance for small firms in England during 2003, and more limited support for its effectiveness. More specifically, we find strong support for the value of BL operators maintaining a high profile as a way of boosting take-up. We also find some support for the approach to market segmentation adopted by BL allowing more intensive assistance to be targeted on younger firms and those with limited liability status. In terms of the outcomes of BL support, and allowing for issues of sample selection, we find no significant effects on growth from ‘other’ assistance but do find positive and significant employment growth effects from intensive assistance. This provides partial support for the programme theory assertion that BL support will lead to improvements in business growth performance and stronger support for the proposition that there would be differential outcomes from intensive and other assistance. The positive employment growth outcomes identified here from intensive assistance, even allowing for sample selection, suggest something of an improvement in the effectiveness of the BL network since the late 1990s

Topics: HD
Publisher: Warwick Business School. Centre for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises
Year: 2008
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:2417

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