Developing Evaluation Policies for Foreign Aid

Session Number: 1207
Track: AEA Sponsored Sessions
Session Type: Panel
Tags: Evaluation Policy, Foreign assistance, Government
Session Chair: Stephanie Shipman [Assistant Director - US Government Accountability Office]
Presenter 1: Stephanie Shipman [Assistant Director - US Government Accountability Office]
Presenter 2: Diana Epstein [Senior Evidence Analyst]
Presenter 3: Lisa Crye [Senior Evaluation Advisor - U.S. Department of State]
Presenter 4: Melissa Patsalides [Director, Office of Learning, Evaluation and Research - USAID]
Time: Nov 09, 2017 (03:15 PM - 04:15 PM)
Room: Wilson C

Abstract 1 Title: Recommended Elements of Federal Agency Evaluation Policy
Presentation Abstract 1:

Putting evaluation policies in writing establishes common expectations within an agency and ensures its audience that it will conduct evaluations systematically and provide credible, relevant information for decision makers. The AEA Roadmap encourages federal agencies to establish an independent evaluation office and safeguard its quality and objectivity through policies regarding staffing and resources, setting a policy relevant agenda, and ensuring the quality, appropriateness, and broad dissemination of evaluation results. The guidelines are deliberately general and flexible to permit their adaptation to the various settings of public sector evaluators: from advising the Secretary to overseeing evaluations of local projects, with the associated variation in level of control. The House Committee on Foreign Affairs asked GAO to review whether US foreign aid monitoring and evaluation policies were consistent with leading practices. Stephanie will explain how GAO reviewed the policies of 6 agencies against 14 leading practices formulated from the Roadmap’s general principles.  

Abstract 2 Title: Developing Interagency Evaluation Guidelines for FATAA
Presentation Abstract 2:

The Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2016 (FATAA) requires the President to establish a single set of guidelines for the establishment of performance goals and metrics and monitoring and evaluation plans for the U.S. agencies providing foreign aid. Since these guidelines set an important precedent and have far-reaching consequences, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) convened an interagency group of monitoring and evaluation staff to write the guidelines over a period of twelve months. This presentation will describe the process and strategies used by the interagency group to develop the guidelines, which had the following goals: preserve flexibility, set minimum standards while encouraging high-performers to continue doing more rigorous work, be implementable by all affected agencies, resolve inconsistencies, set precedent, align with professional monitoring and evaluation principles, encourage interagency collaboration, and comply with the law.


Abstract 3 Title: Nesting Evaluation within Performance Management
Presentation Abstract 3:

Department of State instituted an agency-wide evaluation policy in 2012. The Office of U.S. Foreign Assistance Resources, or F, has monitored policy implementation for foreign assistance evaluations since that time, working to build capacity, develop tools, and work with bureaus to budget and plan for evaluations. In the same time frame, Congress was working on the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act, or FATAA, which became law in 2016. To comply with FATAA, State has replaced its evaluation policy with a Program Design and Performance Management policy in which the requirement to evaluate is part of a continuum that begins with planning and design and ends with learning.  While the performance management framework was already in place at the Department, FATAA has provided opportunities to integrate it from strategic planning to feedback. State will discuss issues involved in expanding the evaluation policy and their approach to a timeline for implementation. 

Abstract 4 Title: Implementing a Comprehensive Policy in a Decentralized Agency
Presentation Abstract 4:

USAID instituted an evaluation policy in January 2011, recommitting the Agency to building an evaluation culture and practice that values good planning and design, independent judgment, high quality methods and evidence-based findings. The evaluation policy was accompanied shortly thereafter by policies on country level planning, project design and monitoring, known in USAID as the Program Cycle. After several years of implementation, USAID took stock of what was working and what wasn’t to inform policy changes. These changes were codified in September 2016 in a revised policy, incorporating all aspects of country level planning, project design, monitoring, evaluation and learning into a unified and streamlined whole. The revised policy amply meets FATAA requirements and underscores the need for country programs to be fit for their context and to be adaptable based on new-found evidence. USAID will discuss the opportunities and challenges presented in implementing this policy in a decentralized agency.


Theme: Learning About Evaluation Use and Users
Audience Level: Intermediate

Session Abstract (150 words): 

Concerns about the value of US foreign aid have led to increased congressional interest in its evaluation. In 2010, AEA issued ‘A Roadmap for a More Effective Government’ to recommend policies for integrating program evaluation into federal agency management. Several foreign aid agencies drew on the Roadmap in developing their own policies. A member of the AEA Task Force from GAO discusses the Roadmap principles and how GAO used them in 2016 to review the evaluation policies of six foreign aid agencies. A 2016 law requires the President to prepare a common set of guidelines for performance monitoring and evaluation of foreign aid. An Office of Management and Budget analyst discusses her work with foreign aid agencies to draft guidelines by January 2018. Leaders of two agency evaluation offices discuss challenges and opportunities in formulating and implementing a common set of evaluation policies for US foreign aid.