USAID staff members typically manage evaluations on behalf of USAID, while the design and implementation of an evaluation is typically the responsibility of an externally contracted evaluation team. USAID staff may participate in these external evaluations, provided that the team leader is an externally contracted evaluator with no fiduciary relationship with the implementing partner. In addition, USAID staff may lead and/or participate in internal evaluations.
Whether leading an evaluation, managing an evaluation, participating on an evaluation team, or just reviewing an evaluation report, it is beneficial to be familiar with the typical designs and methodologies of USAID evaluations. The field of program evaluation is quite diverse, and numerous books, journals, and websites are dedicated to describing the various approaches, models, designs, methods, techniques, and practices in conducting program evaluations. This section provides some limited guidance on designs and methods for conducting an evaluation for USAID.
ADS 201 emphasizes high-quality evaluation methods. It notes:
“Evaluations will use methods that generate the highest quality and most credible evidence that corresponds to the questions being asked, taking into consideration time, budget, and other practical considerations. A combination of qualitative and quantitative methods applied in a systematic and structured way yields valuable findings and is often optimal regardless of evaluation design. Impact evaluations must use experimental methods (randomization) or quasi-experimental methods, and may supplement these with other qualitative or quantitative methods to increase understanding of how or why an intervention achieved or did not achieve an expected impact." (ADS 188.8.131.52)
"A single evaluation can be designed to use a variety of methods and to address a variety of purposes. In cases in which an evaluation uses methods that meet the definition of an impact evaluation, but also uses other methods to address questions more commonly addressed in performance evaluations, the evaluation will be classified as an impact evaluation.
The selection of method or methods for a particular evaluation should consider the appropriateness of the evaluation’s design for answering the evaluation questions and the availability and accessibility of primary and/or secondary data, as well as balance cost, feasibility, and the level of rigor needed to inform specific decisions.” (ADS 184.108.40.206)
- Resource: The Road to Results: Designing and Conducting Effective Development Evaluations
- Resource: Impact Evaluation in Practice
- Resource: A Commissioner's Guide to Probability Sampling for Surveys at USAID
- Resource: Real World Evaluation: Working Under Budget, Time, Data, and Political Constraints: A Condensed Summary Overview
- Resource: Evidence-based practical guidance and templates on how to successfully design and implement a Developmental Evaluation for Evaluators and firms that manage DEs