Program Evaluation

Bureau of Resource Management
April 21, 2011

The Department of State and USAID are strengthening monitoring and evaluation capacity, and in the process are setting new standards for a results-driven program management framework. Both agencies have developed new evaluation policies and procedures to measure program performance and directly link program performance to broader strategies, plans, and resources. An important goal of the new evaluation policies is coming to evidence-based conclusions about the relative efficacy and cost-effectiveness of U.S. diplomatic efforts and development interventions.

Department of State

The Department of State recognizes that comprehensive program evaluation and performance management are essential to securing foreign policy objectives efficiently and effectively. Nuclear proliferation, climate change, global pandemics, and terrorism are some of the perennial, complex issues addressed by the Department. Program evaluations help the Department determine the effectiveness and impact of efforts to influence or mitigate these challenges and lead to more informed strategic and budgetary decisions.

In the fall of 2010, the Department implemented a new Program Evaluation Policy that supports the White House’s initiative to increase transparency and improve government performance and accountability. The policy lays the foundation for a coordinated and robust evaluation function and provides the framework for ongoing and systematic analysis of programs and projects. This policy builds the Department’s capacity to assess program impact, collect and share information about effective practices in its programs, and provide solid evidence for policy and planning decisions. To support an increased emphasis on monitoring and evaluation and the implementation of its new evaluation policy, the Department provided training and a new online rapid data collection methods course to assist in the design and execution of high-quality evaluations. The course was made available to Department personnel worldwide and to other agencies.

The Department highlighted its commitment to assessing diplomacy and development in its June 2010 conference on “New Paradigms for Evaluating Diplomacy in the 21st Century.” Over the course of two days, officials from the Department, USAID, and other Federal agencies, as well as representatives from academia, foreign ministries, and nongovernmental organizations engaged in lively discussions on effective practices, methods, and approaches for examining and assessing foreign affairs activities in response to the challenges facing the United States and the world in the 21st century. The conference workshops and panel discussions focused on a broad range of topics including evaluating interagency efforts to combat transnational crime, global hunger, and cultural diplomacy.


USAID has 50 years of experience in the practice and leadership of evaluation. As part of the USAID FORWARD agenda announced in FY 2010, the Agency is committed to strengthening monitoring and evaluation further and to linking those efforts to program design, budgeting, and strategy work. USAID’s commitment to program evaluation is demonstrated through its actions. Approximately 183 evaluations were initially planned for FY 2010, but this number was greatly expanded as Missions and bureaus finalized their planning. By the end of FY 2010, over 700 evaluations, studies, and assessments had been conducted.

In addition to continued support for evaluation actions put into place in FY 2009, including an active USAID Evaluation Interest Group and work with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development/Development Assistance Committee Evaluation Network, USAID has made significant organizational changes that will strengthen how it manages and applies evaluation findings.

In June 2010, USAID established a Bureau of Policy, Planning, and Learning (PPL), which includes a new Office of Learning, Evaluation, and Research (LER). LER will play a key role in improving evaluation at the Agency, and will support the revitalization of USAID as a premier learning organization that is innovative, evidence-based, and results-oriented. Several steps have been launched in 2010 to achieve this.

  • USAID has developed a new evaluation policy that—among other things—defines key terms, establishes clear protocols for when evaluations are appropriate, provides methodological guidance and quality standards, and promotes a more independent evaluation process that results in the application of findings for policy and programmatic decision-making.
  • To connect practitioners and researchers while encouraging the use of evidence in decision-making, the Agency is hosting a series of evidence summits around particular development issues. In September 2010, the Agency hosted its first evidence summit around issues of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism.
  • USAID is revitalizing its evaluation training course and creating additional materials to equip Agency staff with the requisite knowledge, tools, and skills necessary to manage evaluation activities effectively.
  • USAID is working with its interagency partners to establish a standardized set of evaluation frameworks that can be applied to the Agency’s high priority investments, including the Global Health and the Feed the Future Initiatives, as well as its large country programs.
  • USAID is increasing its focus on conducting rigorous impact evaluations and using the results to improve program effectiveness. The Agency has joined the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation, and in the democracy and governance area has developed a highly focused program to measure the impact of its interventions.

Evaluation Findings Shape Future Assistance Decisions

In 2010, a team of experts from the State Department and USAID jointly evaluated the Economic Management for Stability and Growth Program in Kosovo and determined that assistance to the Central Bank of Kosovo had met its objectives and, given significant support from other donors, U.S. assistance was no longer required. The same evaluation recommended that USAID continue to promote public-private partnerships (PPP) in Kosovo and support the PPP Unit in the Ministry of Finance and Economy. In response, a successor program is planned that will strengthen the PPP Unit’s capacity to analyze and evaluate potential PPP projects. The program will improve the transparency of new PPPs by developing work plans and monitoring systems to track achievement of results.