Sunday, August 8, 2010

White House Focus on Evaluation

On July 29, 2010, the Office of Management and Budget released a memo to federal agencies with guidance for conducting high priority evaluations. As summarized on the OMB blog, "OMB is allocating a small amount of funding for agencies that voluntarily demonstrate how their FY 2012 funding priorities are subjected to rigorous evaluation, with an emphasis on evaluations aimed at determining the causal effects of programs or particular strategies, interventions, and activities within programs."

In the memo, OMB notes that many important programs have never been formally evaluated. The evaluations that have been conducted have not been sufficiently used to shape Federal budget priorities or agency management practices. Many agencies lack the staffing to support evaluations and therefore many programs have continued to be funded without adequate evidence that they work. Thus as part of the FY 2012 Budget process, OMB is allocating funding for agencies to voluntarily:

"o Show how their Fiscal Year 2012 funding priorities are evidence-based or otherwise subject to rigorous evaluation;

o Provide OMB with an evaluation plan updating or expanding on the evaluation plan in the agency’s strategic plan if needed to address questions raised by this memorandum;

o Describe all evaluation proposals costing $1 million or more already incorporated into the agency’s FY 2012 budget submission;

o Propose new evaluations that could be started in FY 2012 that could improve government programs in the future to which additional funding would be applied;

o Assess agency capacity to support evaluation and suggest pathways for strengthening that capacity; and

o Identify impediments to rigorous program evaluation in agency statutes or regulations."

As evidence-based practice is emerging as a central priority at the federal level, communities will increasingly be called upon to demonstrate the best possible evidence base for any proposed programs. For more information on evidence based practice, see CSSP's Evidence-Based Practice: A Primer for Promise Neighborhoods developed for the Promise Neighborhoods Institute.

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