Nearly a dozen high-profile reports and commissions have offered recommendations to the Obama administration on how U.S. foreign assistance should be restructured. Ranging from the organizational to the thematic, these recommendations provide a wealth of sometimes conflicting advice. There is a common thread, however, running through nearly all the recommendations: the need for improved evidence on foreign assistance effectiveness and accountability, with a particular call for “rigorous evaluation.”
This paper suggests fulfilling that recommendation by institutionalizing evaluation as a driving force in a system of continuous learning and program improvement at USAID. Simply increasing the number of evaluations conducted will not improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of development assistance. Most important is ensuring that evaluations result in learning that is integrated into decision-making as part of a learning cycle.