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.
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 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: