Program evaluations are essential to implementing and managing foreign policy and foreign assistance programs at the Department of State and USAID. Evaluation results and performance data are used to inform programmatic and budget decisions in both Washington and the field, and convey the effectiveness of programs to program managers, Congress, and the public. State/F and USAID provided intensive training to over 100 participants through an Evaluation Certificate Course and through a web-based Monitoring and Evaluation Distance Learning Course, enhancing capacity in this field. USAID and F also actively participated in evaluating the implementation of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, of which the United States is a signatory. The number of foreign assistance evaluations reported by operating units for FY 2009 doubled from the previous fiscal year to over 800, and spanned five Strategic Goals.
The Department of State recognizes program evaluation as a means to systematically capture reliable data that allows the Department to understand more clearly links between current resources and Department foreign policy and program impacts. Qualitative and quantitative data are then assessed, and that assessment better informs conclusions and decisions about programs, performance, and resources.
A robust, coordinated evaluation function is essential to the Department’s ability to document program accomplishments, promote higher levels of performance, identify best practices, assess return on investment, provide evidence for policy and planning decisions, manage organizational change, and strengthen accountability to the American people. From an internal perspective, evaluations help program managers justify Department of State program and project resource requests. For example, Missions and bureaus incorporate program evaluation as a best practice to determine the impact of U.S. policies, understand better what is effective in U.S. programs, and increase accountability to U.S. stakeholders.
The Department’s evaluation work is supported by legislation requiring Federal agencies to report on whether programs achieve stated goals and are cost effective. 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 State Department’s goal is to help managers understand how programs are working and provide them with tools to do so.
“Assessing Achievement” – Department’s second annual evaluation conference – June 2009. Department of State Image
The Department supports evaluation research, strategies, and activities through workshops, monthly lecture series, and conferences; working with USAID on joint evaluation guidelines and definitions; and by asking bureaus to focus on program assessments related to the joint strategic framework. In FY 2009, State worked with USAID and other evaluation partners to provide training, raise evaluation’s importance through a draft policy statement, and collect baseline evaluation information. State Department bureaus reported on foreign assistance and State operations-funded evaluations in the Country Operational Plans and State Bureau Strategic Plans. In addition, the Department hosted an international evaluation conference at which Deputy Secretary Jacob Lew spoke, and Secretary Clinton provided a message about evaluation’s importance for affecting change in foreign affairs. The conference also served as an exchange of ideas and best practices through panel discussions with Canadian and British Government representatives.
USAID has a track record of more than 40 years in the practice and leadership of evaluation, leading the development of the Logical Framework in the 1960s, establishing a Central Evaluation Office in the early 1970s, and creating the Center for Development Information and Evaluation in the 1980s to store evaluation information and best practices. Despite the slight decline in practice, evaluation remains a valuable tool in USAID’s efforts to improve development effectiveness based on empirical knowledge of what works and what does not. USAID is committed to reenergizing its existing capacities and developing new ones in keeping with accepted best practices and new technologies.
During FY 2009, USAID took a number of steps to strengthen evaluation and re-establish its leadership both within the Federal Government and across the international development community. This included re-establishing USAID’s central evaluation unit charged with providing Agency-wide oversight, leadership, and coordination in assessing program performance and impact; and reaffirming Agency evaluation requirements.
In FY 2009, USAID established a new evaluation community of interest, the Evaluation Interest Group, with more than 125 members, monthly meetings, and a lively internet presence through a redesigned USAID evaluation website, EvalWeb. Together with the Department, USAID established a Foreign Affairs Evaluation Working Group that meets biweekly and also includes representation from the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Office of Global AIDS Coordinator.
Just as importantly, USAID reasserted its global leadership in evaluation and actively engaged in a variety of inter-agency, national, and international evaluation forums. This included participating actively in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development/Development Assistance Committee (OECD/DAC) Evaluation Network, organizing and moderating a highly successful Advisory Committee on Foreign Voluntary Assistance Workshop on strengthening evaluation, and serving on OMB’s Evaluation Experts and Evaluation Working Groups. During FY 2009, USAID also played key roles in several collaborative, multi-donor evaluations, including the OECD/DAC-led Paris Declaration Evaluation (Phase Two) and the Dutch-led Sudan Humanitarian Assistance Evaluation.