On Wednesday, November 15th, the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network joined the Center for Global Development in hosting “Evidence-Informed Decision-Making: The Legacy of FATAA and the Evidence Act for US Development Agencies.” Ted McCann, Vice President of the American Idea Foundation, and Loren DeJonge Schulman, the Director of Performance and Personnel Management at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), delivered opening remarks, setting the stage on the development and implementation of the Evidence Act. They were followed by a panel moderated by 3ie’s Director of Evidence for Policy and Learning and MFAN Steering Committee member, Thomas Kelly, which featured leaders from OMB, STATE, DFC, MCC and USAID.
The event focused on how the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act (FATAA) and the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (or Evidence Act) have strengthened the use of evidence in policymaking at U.S. development agencies and the opportunities that still exist for improvements.
Enacted in 2016, FATAA requires federal agencies to monitor and evaluate foreign aid programs, apply their findings, and make foreign aid data publicly available on the Foreign Assistance Dashboard; the 2019 Evidence Act integrated the use of evidence—including data and evaluation—into federal government decision-making.
In opening remarks, Ted McCann reflected on his experience alongside Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray in creating the Evidence Act while OMB’s Loren DeJonge Schulman remarked on evidence as a “team sport” which demands more than just compliance. Success, she said, requires leader who encourage the demand for evidence and a team of dedicated individuals committed to implementing changes to establish evidence as a habitual act.
In opening remarks, Ted McCann reflected on his experience alongside Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray in creating the Evidence Act while OMB’s Loren DeJonge Schulman remarked on evidence as a “team sport” which demands more than just compliance. Success, she said, requires individuals who encourage the demand for evidence and a team of dedicated staff and leaders committed to implementing changes to establish evidence as a habitual act.
Across the agencies, there has been a proactive approach to evidence implementation:
· The State Department has spearheaded the implementation of learning agendas to generate actionable evidence and convene key stakeholders to reflect on the use of evidence. Evidence is also an enshrined function of critical legislation like the Global Fragility Act, the Countering the PRC Malign Influence Fundand at the Bureau of International Narcotic and Law Enforcement
· USAID has been deeply engaged in evidence use since its first evaluation policy in 2011 and has taken actions to increase the number of evaluations completed per year, formalize training for over 3,000 staff, generate an evaluation toolkit, develop global mechanisms for evaluation services in missions, and partner with external entities to improve the capacity of local evaluation institutions.
· While the MCC is not formally subject to the Evidence Act, this key statute has fed a culture of evidence at the agency, which relies on regular evidence and data-driven systems to select countries and projects. It has taken advantage of the norms presented by the Acts to continue the culture of sharing in advancing evidence use within the agency.
· In light of its recent establishment, the DFC has leaned on FATAA in its transparency focus. It has also installed a dedicated monitoring team of impact management and data analytics specialists with the goal of collecting and analyzing data while creating a new impact portfolio with a team of reviewers analyzing success factors and challenges.
Below are some highlights from the event on evidence work across the agencies:
· Implementing evidence in action requires cheerleaders and champions both within and outside government.
· Agencies are on journeys to strengthen an evidence culture through an emphasis on training, the creation of transparency dashboards, and deeper integration.
· FATAA and the Evidence Act bring the evidence conversation to the forefront and feed participation across agencies, strengthening the evidence-sharing ecosystem.
While these key statues have advanced the integration of evidence in foreign assistance delivery, panelists identified areas for continued progress:
· Resources – Increased resources would allow for greater evidence implementation, increased human capital, and more advanced IT without reallocation from other sources.
· Confronting failure – The ability to confront failure and implement rapid changes is a challenge.
· Culture change – There is a strong culture of evidence use but there is always the opportunity to improve.
· Evidence demand – Agencies must continue to ensure demanding evidence is a routine part of decision-making at every level.
Explore the following evidence dashboards for each organization:
· STATE & USAID: Foreignassistance.gov
· MCC: Evidence.mcc.gov
· DFC: DFI Dashboard
Watch the full event here.
All images included in this post were provided by The Center for Global Development.