Bureau for Food Security Developmental Evaluation

Speeches Shim

Developmental Evaluation of the Bureau for Food Security

DE Overview

Since its inception, the Bureau for Food Security (“the Bureau” or BFS) has provided the leadership and vision for the United States Agency for International Development (“the Agency” or USAID)’s international agricultural development practice, focusing on initiatives to combat hunger and poverty as well as increase the resilience of communities. As the Bureau and Agency as a whole were undergoing significant transformation, BFS identified a need to use learning from current practices to inform the Bureau’s future structures and functions. For this purpose, BFS elected to implement a developmental evaluation (DE) to better understand how successful the Bureau’s units were in capturing learning and dealing with challenges related to knowledge management (KM) and knowledge sharing (KS). 

Beginning in December 2018, the BFS developmental evaluation (DE) pilot worked with five different teams to support the development of KM/KS practices. The effort also sought to capture learning within and across teams, and also provide pathways for better KM at the Bureau level. 

The pilot faced several challenges that necessarily limited the application of the DE approach, including the longest shutdown in the history of the United States Government (USG) and significant staff and leadership turnover in the Bureau. There were several iterations of DE scopes of work (SOWs) and lines of inquiry throughout the nine-month period, based within various teams. 

Overall, the DE was unable to fully take off and address the questions posed in the initial SOW. Instead, it provided the Bureau with several products and answers to a limited set of questions stemming from shorter-term involvement with distinct teams. Unfortunately, at the time of DE implementation, and due to factors outside the control of the Developmental Evaluator and some BFS colleagues, it was not possible to create the necessary environment of adaptive learning within the Bureau units to enable a successful DE. The Developmental Evaluator was, however, able to share proposed pathways for future KM application within the future Bureau based on observations, team meetings participation, and key informant interviews (KIIs).

BFS Pilot Deliverables

  • BFS Final Report

Other Learnings from the BFS DE Pilot

The Developmental Evaluation Pilot Activity (DEPA-MERL) is intended to test the effectiveness of a DE approach in achieving effective programming for innovative interventions. All DEPA-MERL pilots incorporate rigorous monitoring and feedback systems on the DE process and utility. The learning products stemming from these efforts, as well as other cross-pilot learning using the BFS DE, are listed below: 

  • BFS Learning Report - a report that identifies six lessons learned from DEPA-MERL’s attempt to launch a DE within the Bureau for Food Security, including main impediments to success. These lessons will inform future DE design and start-up. 

  • Across-Pilot Analysis - This report shares findings and lessons learned from across three all of DEPA-MERL’s DE pilots, including BFS, to answer questions related to emergent learnings, implementation barriers/enablers, and value added/lost with DE ( in the USAID context) compared to traditional evaluation.

What is Developmental Evaluation? 

Development Evaluation (DE) is an approach to evaluation that supports the continuous adaptation of development interventions. DE provides evaluative thinking and timely feedback to inform ongoing adaptation as needs, findings, and insights emerge in complex dynamic situations. The DE helps facilitate the process from findings to action in a collaborative process with the DE stakeholders. Learn more about the Developmental Evaluation Pilot Activity (DEPA) and developmental evaluations: https://www.usaid.gov/GlobalDevLab/MERLIN/DEPA-MERL