Bureau of Resource Management
Report
February 24, 2012



Program evaluation is an essential component to implementing diplomatic and development programs and initiatives. Evaluations allow project managers to better understand their programs and give policy makers a tool to assess the capacity of a particular program or sector.

The Department of State and USAID have partnered to develop and implement new evaluation policies, guidelines and procedures to support both agencies' evaluation and performance management strategies. Under the aegis of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), the two agencies are collaborating on activities to promote and sustain evaluation as a management tool. See the evaluation policy for Department of State and USAID.

Department of State

The Department is committed to using performance management best practices, including, program evaluation, to achieve the most effective U.S. foreign policy outcomes and greater accountability to our primary stakeholders, the American people. The Department of State's policy on program evaluation embodies the aims of the current National Security Strategy, the Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development, and the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. The policy applies to evaluations of the Department's diplomatic and development programs, projects and activities. This policy is an important milestone in strengthening agency evaluation capacity at State and more effectively incorporating evaluation into planning and budget decision-making. The policy supports OMB efforts to work with agencies on the development of evaluation plans and to incorporate program evaluation as a core element of program management. As part of efforts to implement key QDDR recommendations, the Department is currently revising its evaluation policy to strengthen the connection between evaluation and USAID's strategic planning, performance management and budget formulation processes. The revised evaluation policy incorporates best practices and international standards in evaluation and criteria to facilitate the evaluation of programs, projects, activities and other efforts implemented with State Operations and Foreign Assistance funding.

To support implementation of the policy and to lay the foundation for a coordinated and robust evaluation function, the Department is putting in place training, tools, and products to assist in the design and execution of high-quality evaluations.

USAID

USAID manages public resources to promote sustainable development. To fulfill this responsibility, the Agency bases policy and investment decisions on the best available empirical evidence, and uses the opportunities afforded by project implementation to generate new knowledge for the wider community. Moreover, USAID commits to measuring and documenting project achievements and shortcomings through performance monitoring and evaluation so that the Agency's multiple stakeholders gain an understanding of the return on investment in development activities.

In January 2011, USAID released a new Evaluation Policy that sets ambitious standards for the quality and transparency of evaluation to demonstrate results, generate evidence to inform decisions, promote learning, and ensure accountability. Many of the policy requirements build on and update past USAID evaluation practices to bring the agency up to date with, and in some cases surpass international standards.

Since release of the policy, the Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning has led the effort to institutionalize the policy across the agency by:

  • Establishing and extending good practice by communicating Evaluation Policy standards and increasing the understanding and awareness of USAID staff and partners of what makes for good practice in development program evaluation. This includes, among other actions, integrating evaluation into the program cycle and working on new communications products to help staff understand and in turn present on evaluation requirements.
  • Building USAID capacity through training in evaluation methods and best practices for field and Washington based staff. In FY 2011, 365 staff members were trained, and another 1,100 will be reached by the end of FY 2013. In addition, evaluation training is now mandatory for all incoming Foreign Service Officers hired under the Development Leadership Initiative.
  • Providing Technical Assistance to staff in bilateral and regional missions and Washington pillar bureaus in drafting evaluation scopes of work for impact and performance evaluations, developing mission evaluation orders, and drafting the monitoring and evaluation sections of mission Country Development and Cooperation Strategies.
  • Leveraging Evidence and Learning by hosting a community of practice, the Evaluation Interest Group (EIG), which provides a broad forum for USAID staff to share evaluation experiences, best practices, and opportunities related to evaluation and learning. Membership is voluntary and open to any staff person, including from the Department of State. Before the Evaluation Policy, the group numbered around 100 members. As of September 2011 there are over 700 people on the EIG email list. The group also manages an internal Share Point site that archives Evaluation Resources, available to USAID staff.


[This is a mobile copy of Program Evaluation]