Evaluation at USAID is defined as the systematic collection and analysis of data and information about the characteristics and outcomes of one or more organizations, policies, programs, strategies, projects, and/or activities as a basis for judgments to understand and improve effectiveness and efficiency, timed to inform decisions about current and future programming. Evaluation is distinct from assessment (which is forward-looking) or an informal review of projects (ADS 201). It is also distinct from performance monitoring, which is an ongoing and systematic collection of performance indicator data and other quantitative or qualitative information to reveal whether implementation is on track and whether expected results are being achieved.
The purpose of evaluations is twofold: to ensure accountability to stakeholders and to learn to improve development outcomes. The subject of a USAID evaluation may include any level of USAID programming, from a policy to a strategy to a project, individual award, activity, intervention, or even cross-cutting programmatic priority.
USAID Automated Directives System (ADS) 201 and its associated references provide the foundation for all USAID guidance on evaluation at USAID.
As noted in ADS 18.104.22.168, evaluations at USAID should be:
- Integrated into the Design of Strategies, Projects, and Activities
- Unbiased in Measurement and Reporting, Independent, and Objective
- Relevant and Useful
- Based on Best Methods of Appropriate Rigor
- Oriented toward Reinforcing Local Ownership and National Self-Reliance
- Conducted According to the Highest Ethical Standards