EPTF Week: Implementing the Evaluation Recommendations from the U.S. Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking by Nick Hart

I’m Nick Hart, the current chair of the EPTF and Director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Evidence-Based Policymaking Initiative. In 2016, Congress and the president established a federal Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking that studied how to improve government’s infrastructure for evidence building, and offered a series of recommendations about strengthening government’s evidence capacity, among other others.

While the Commission deliberated in 2016 and 2017, AEA provided direct input about evaluation policies the Commission could consider, including testimony from former EPTF Chair George Grob. When the Commission issued its final report in 2017, it included several notable recommendations related to evaluation, such as establishing chief evaluation officers in federal agencies and creating learning agendas, which are strategic plans for research and evaluation.

In the months following the Commission’s report, AEA co-hosted a forum with other professional associations to discuss implementation of the recommendations and applauded the commission’s goal to institutionalize the evaluation function in government, joining more than 100 organizations in backing aspects of the Commission recommendations.

While it’s one thing for a policy Commission to issue recommendations, it’s another to see those recommendations become reality. Here’s a quick snapshot of what has happened related to  implementation:

  • Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act. In October 2017, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R) and Senator Patty Murray (D), who also championed the creation of the Commission, co-filed HR 4174 that would require major federal agencies to identify and designate chief evaluation officers, and to establish learning agendas. The legislation also includes a number of provisions that affect data availability and privacy protections that would impact evaluators. The legislation quickly moved unanimously through the House of Representatives in November 2017, and is currently awaiting Senate action, expected sometime in 2018.
  • President’s Management Agenda. In May 2018, the White House Office of Management and Budget announced a new plan for improving how government operates. The plan includes a priority goal of improving how government uses data, including for evaluation activities. In the coming months the White House will provide additional details about how the plans will affect decision-making and accountability, including through the use of learning agendas recommended by the commission.

The Commission’s recommendations could lead to changes in how government handles evaluation policy moving forward. If the legislation becomes law or the President’s Management Agenda includes directives for all agencies, numerous opportunities will emerge for ongoing engagement with the Federal government to help shape, improve, or in some cases establish the evaluation function within government.

Rad Resource: Read and learn what the Commission said about evaluation in its final report.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating AEA’s Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF) week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from members of AEA’s EPTF. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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