Over the last five years, there have been a number of new legislations focused on improving monitoring and evaluation (M&E) throughout the federal government. In 2016 Congress enacted the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act (FATAA), which focuses heavily on using and learning from monitoring data and findings from evaluation reports. The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 was passed to encourage federal agencies to create evidence-building plans (better known as Learning Agendas) to support evidence-based policymaking.
In ECA, the Evaluation Division promotes a culture of learning within the Bureau through a number of tools that the Division has created, along with a customer service-oriented focus on our program teams. The emphasis we place on the utilization of data allows ECA to better:
- Monitor exchange program performance;
- Make critical programming decisions;
- Inform strategic planning efforts; and
- Improve management practices and services.
ECA is dedicated to enhancing the effectiveness of the Bureau’s educational and cultural programs. As part of this effort, and in response to the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 and the Department’s M&E policy (18 FAM 300), the ECA Evaluation Division developed a multi-year learning agenda. The learning agenda is a set of questions addressing critical knowledge gaps that, when answered, enable more efficient and effective ECA programming. You can find ECA’s Learning Agenda here. A webinar explaining the Learning Agenda's development and how the Evaluation Division plans to incorporate research into its activities can be found here.
Through the Department of State's DiplomacyLab program, in which talented university students from around the country implement projects to help solve public diplomacy problems, the Evaluation Division worked closely with two universities (Virginia Tech and American University) to conduct research on ECA's Learning Agenda. Please find below two reports - one on the economic impact of exchange programs on U.S. communities and the other on the dynamics of alumni networks - that will serve as a foundation the ECA Bureau will continue to build on.
Learning from Evaluations
The ECA Evaluation Division emphasizes learning from evaluations to ensure that we are continually improving the effectiveness and efficiency of our programming. Below are examples of programs that utilized evaluation results to modify their programs.