Gov’t Eval TIG Week: Aligning Strategies to Broader USG Policies by Natalie Donahue

Hi!  My name is Natalie Donahue and I am the Chief of Evaluation in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) at the U.S. Department of State.  ECA leads public diplomacy outreach efforts for the Department through a number of exchange programs designed to build friendly, peaceful relations between Americans and citizens of other countries.    

Monitoring and evaluating public diplomacy programs is a challenging endeavor due to the complex causal pathways and long-term nature of expected outcomes, among other factors.  But the real challenge has been and continues to be, articulating how our public diplomacy programs are contributing to overarching foreign policy goals.  

In 2019, the ECA Evaluation Division created the Monitoring Data for ECA (MODE) Framework to better track program performance across the Bureau.  Understanding the importance of demonstrating how these measures and thus ECA programs, are aligned with broader policy goals, we set about mapping the objectives and sub-objectives of the MODE Framework against the goals and objectives of higher-level strategies all the way to the National Security Strategy.  ECA’s Strategy Crosswalk provides a visual depiction of these linkages.  

We have already seen benefits emanating from the creation of the ECA Strategy Crosswalk, including:

  • Non-evaluation stakeholders being able to easily understand and visualize how ECA programs contribute to higher-level foreign policy goals
  • The ability to provide more data/detailed responses to Congressional and Department-level senior leadership queries surrounding strategic USG priorities (as we know which indicators fall under which objectives so can easily report on ECA programmatic outcomes)

Hot Tip

These crosswalks can provide a framework for designing new programs 

Hot Tip

When linking your strategy or framework, think about all of the varying levels (project, program, office, Bureau, agency, international) and how yours might align.  

Hot Tip

Don’t just skim the goals and the objectives of the higher- and lower-level strategies, but read the strategies in their entirety to fully understand where and how yours connects

Hot Tip

Providing a visual to stakeholders as to how your programs advance higher-level priorities is helpful to articulating the linkages, but crafting a short narrative/talking points to support the visual is still useful

Lesson Learned

We built the MODE Framework through a collaborative process with both internal and external stakeholders; we recommend this same approach when setting out to align lower-level strategies to broader policies.

The American Evaluation Association is hosting Gov’t Eval TIG Week with our colleagues in the Government Evaluation Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our Gov’t Eval TIG members. 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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

2 thoughts on “Gov’t Eval TIG Week: Aligning Strategies to Broader USG Policies by Natalie Donahue”

  1. Thanks for posting and sharing these hot tips and lessons learned, Natalie. This is very informative and prompts more thinking on application and use. I couldn’t agree more with the bullet in the link to MODE Framework page – Respond quickly and reliably to ad-hoc requests from Congress, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and internal Department of State stakeholders.

  2. Debbie Kaddu-Serwadda

    Thanks for sharing these interesting insights Natalie! I like your hot tips! This is good for thought indeed! Very interesting!

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