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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Program Evaluation


Bureau of Resource Management
Report
December 16, 2009

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Photo showing the American Center in Alexandria, Egypt.

Department of State/OBO

Secretary’s List of Culturally Significant Properties:

The American Center in Alexandria, Egypt reflects the city’s rich cultural heritage and its cosmopolitan character. The former residence now houses the Thomas Jefferson Library and an American Cultural Center, enabling Egyptian citizens to borrow books, learn English and exchange views on regional and international issues. Although the U.S. Embassy closed its consulate in Alexandria in 1993 (the embassy is in Cairo), the center remains open to promote mutual understanding between the peoples of Egypt and the United States through a full range of programs.

The center was designed in Palladian Neo-Renaissance style by Architect Victor Erlanger in 1922 and purchased by the United States in 1962 to house the Library. Erlanger’s design incorporates classical decorative elements into the square symmetrical house; downstairs rooms open onto a central hall with a marble staircase dividing into two separate flights.

A program evaluation is a systematic and objective assessment of an ongoing or completed project, program or policy using systematic collection and analysis of qualitative and quantitative information. As the Department seeks to increase resources, it must justify these needs by demonstrating effective use of its current resources, showing results that directly link to Department goals. As the need for greater accountability increases, so does the need for effective program and performance management tools that produce high-quality data. The Department recognizes evaluation as a key activity to systematically capture reliable data.

A robust, coordinated evaluation function is essential to the Department’s ability to document program impact, identify best practices, assess return on investment, provide evidence for policy and planning decisions, and strengthen accountability to the American people. From an internal perspective, evaluations help program managers justify the Department’s program and project resource requests. The Department’s evaluation work is supported by legislation that states that federal agencies should report on the extent to which programs achieve stated goals and how effective programs are as compared to their cost. Evaluation supports the goal of aligning performance data with budget requests, so that resource decisions can be made based on program impact and results.

The Department’s goal is to help managers understand how programs are working and provide them with tools to do so. The Department supports evaluation activities through workshops and conferences, works with USAID on joint evaluation guidelines and definitions, and requests bureaus to focus on program assessment related to strategic goals. In FY 2009, the Department worked with USAID and other evaluation partners to provide training to raise the importance of evaluation through a draft policy statement, and collect baseline evaluation information. Bureaus reported on foreign assistance and Department operations-funded evaluations in the Country Operational Plans and State Bureau Strategic Plans.

In addition to ongoing workshops, the Department hosted an international evaluation conference at which Deputy Secretary Lew spoke and Secretary Clinton provided a video message about the value of evaluation for affecting change in foreign affairs. The conference also served as an exchange for ideas and best practices through panel discussions with Canadian and British government representatives. This allows the Department to better understand and assess more clearly the effects of policy or program outcomes. Data are collected and then assessed, and that assessment better informs decisions about program and performance management on a regular recurring basis. An outcome of this conference was the development of a draft Department policy on evaluation and an understanding that the Department is using evaluation to improve its performance-based budgeting.

In the next fiscal year, the Department will pursue these and other avenues to enhance existing activities and support bureaus in demonstrating program effectiveness.

Department Overview

Congress established the U.S. Department of State in 1789, replacing the Department of Foreign Affairs, which was established in 1781. The Department is the oldest and most senior executive agency of the federal government. Please visit http://history.state.gov and browse through the Department’s renowned Foreign Relations of the United States series, explore the history of diplomatic relations country by country, and read biographies of famous diplomatic figures. The mission of the Department, working closely with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is to “advance freedom for the benefit of the American people and the international community by helping to build and sustain a more democratic, secure, and prosperous world composed of well-governed states that respond to the needs of their people, reduce widespread poverty, and act responsibility within the international system.” Both the current State/USAID Joint Strategic Plan for 2007-2012 and prior plans can be found at http://www.state.gov/s/d/rm/rls/dosstrat/index.htm.

 




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