Greetings, colleagues. I’m Stephanie Cabell and a Program Analyst at the U.S. Department of State. I work as an evaluation advisor and performance management specialist. Together with colleagues at our partner agency—the U.S. Agency for International Development—we work to identify effective approaches and methods to evaluate the two main pillars of our work–diplomacy and development.
Western nations have long approaches to illuminate the nature of diplomacy and diplomatic activities, and to establish effective evaluation systems in order to measure and evaluate diplomatic successes. The U.S. Department of State undertook a study to gather insights to help shape its efforts to construct an evaluation process for assessing the effectiveness of diplomatic programs. Key questions we asked ourselves:
- What kinds of diplomatic programs/initiatives would lend themselves most easily to evaluation?
- What criteria could be used when deciding to evaluate?
- What approaches should be used to make evaluations of “diplomacy” more meaningful and useful to government leaders?
Over the course of several rounds of structured interviews with current and retired diplomats and other subject matter experts, here’s what we learned.
Hot Tips and Rad Resources:
Challenges to Evaluating Diplomacy: It’s no surprise that diplomatic activities that require long-term negotiations, global and regional coalition building are hardest to measure. These include:
- Diplomacy is not easily quantifiable: It is often a fluid, “amorphous,” non-linear process.
- Issues of attribution: The U.S., as is true for all nations, is not the only actor in the foreign policy arena.
- Diplomats tackle complex issues that cannot be easily understood and captured.
- Criteria that may be used to select diplomatic efforts for evaluation purposes include technical feasibility, the cost-benefit equation, political sensitivity, and urgency of the information.
- “The European Union as a Diplomatic Actor” offers a real-word view the nature of evaluating diplomacy
- To obtain a good grounding of U.S. diplomatic actions undertaken as part of a coalition or interagency effort, a good tool is the National Archives library on Diplomacy and Foreign Policy
- The execution of foreign policy typically involves interventions that cross diplomacy, development and trade. The World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group’s blog looks at the inherent challenges of evaluating across these three dimensions.
Additional Rad Resources: For those wanting a deeper dive into this area, related articles and resources on evaluating “diplomacy” include the following:
- United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy
- A Framework for the Strategic Planning & Evaluation of Public Diplomacy
- Evaluating Diplomacy: A Mission Impossible?
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