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New Directions for Evaluation

Special Issue: Evaluation Policy

Overview

This issue of New Directions for Evaluation (NDE) surveys the landscape of evaluation policy. An evaluation policy consists of the principles, guidelines, or other dictates that exist within an organization and guide understandings and actions about the planning, conduct, or use of evaluation. Evaluation policies matter because they help determine what form evaluation takes, and because they may influence how relevant parties relate and react to evaluation. Evaluation policies thereby enable or constrain the contributions that evaluation can make. This issue builds on and updates an earlier issue of NDE, No. 123. Much has changed since the 2009 issue, including: more widespread development of explicit evaluation policies in agencies and organizations; empirical studies of evaluation policies; important legislation at the U.S. federal level, particularly the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 (the Evidence Act), which was signed into law in early 2019; and ongoing changes in practices related to and emanating from evaluation policies, including those mandated by the Evidence Act. The current issue reviews many of these empirical, legislative, and practice developments, bringing readers up to date on evaluation policy while also pointing the way to productive future directions. Most chapters in the issue focus primarily on the U.S. federal government. However, the volume has important implications for the broader evaluation community. Will Shadish once said, “Evaluation theory is who we are.” Evaluation policy is what we can do.

The chapters of this volume are made freely available for download by the Data Foundation, the William T. Grant Foundation, and the American Evaluation Association.
 

EDITORS’ NOTE

Melvin M. Mark and Nicholas R. Hart

 

CHAPTER 1. EVALUATION POLICY: AN INTRODUCTION

Nicholas R. Hart and Melvin M. Mark

This chapter overviews evaluation policy, offers a brief history of evaluation policy in the U.S., describes the role of the American Evaluation Association, and introduces the other chapters.

 

CHAPTER 2. AN EVALUATION ROADMAP FOR A MORE EFFECTIVE GOVERNMENT

American Evaluation Association, Evaluation Policy Task Force

This Roadmap was developed to describe a vision for evaluation’s role in the federal government, including steps for strengthening the practice and use of evaluation.

 

CHAPTER 3. EVALUATION POLICY AND ORGANIZATIONAL EVALUATION CAPACITY BUILDING: A STUDY OF INTERNATIONAL AID AGENCY EVALUATION POLICIES

Hind A. Al Hudib and J. Bradley Cousins

Drawing on a systematic review of written evaluation policies, this chapter addresses the definition of evaluation policy, examines possible elements of an evaluation policy, and discusses the likely relationship between evaluation policy and evaluation capacity building.

 

CHAPTER 4. THE IMPORTANCE OF IMPLEMENTATION: PUTTING EVALUATION POLICY TO WORK

Leslie Ann Fierro, Alana R. Kinarsky, Carlos Escheverra-Estrada, Nadia S. Bass, and Christina A. Christie

Drawing on interviews with federal agency staff who have led their agencies’ work on evaluation policies, this chapter describes the various ways in which evaluation policies have been implemented, for both internal and external stakeholders.

 

CHAPTER 5. LEARNING AGENDAS: MOTIVATION, ENGAGEMENT, AND POTENTIAL

Kathryn Newcomer, Karol Olejniczak, and Nicholas R. Hart

This chapter discusses learning agendas, a form of evidence-building plan, which are called for in recent federal legislation and have potential to substantially change the use of evaluation.

 

CHAPTER 6. EVALUATION POLICY AND THE FEDERAL WORKFORCE

Diana Epstein, Erica Zielewski, and Erika Liliedahl

This chapter considers the human factor in evaluation policy, especially the role of federal employees in the development and application of their agency’s evaluation policy.

 

CHAPTER 7. PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER: THE CASE OF THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR’S EVALUATION POLICY

Molly Irwin and Demetra Nightingale

Two former Chief Evaluation Officers provide a case study from a federal department that was a leader in developing and employing an evaluation policy, including a learning agenda.

 

CHAPTER 8. THE FUTURE OF EVALUATION POLICY

Melvin M. Mark and Nicholas R. Hart

Drawing on the previous chapters and other work, the issue editors identify a set of key issues and themes regarding evaluation policy and also offer suggestions about further advances with respect to advocacy, practice, and research related to evaluation policy.

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