What’s the Role of Equity in Evaluation Policy?

Evidence is a potent ingredient in shaping all kinds of policy, from legislation and regulations across levels of government to program-level guidance. Particularly at the federal level, evidence has a growing role in determining what programs and services get funded and how work gets done. As a result, the frameworks that agencies use to ground their work in evidence—such as evaluation policies, principles, and standards—can play a significant role in promoting or hindering equity through the values, parameters, and priorities that they assert.

Evaluation policies in particular will play an expanded role as the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act requires federal agencies to appoint Chief Evaluation Officers charged with establishing and implementing a policy that “affirms the agency’s commitment to conducting…evaluations to inform policy and practice. The policy will provide the agency’s stakeholders with a clear understanding of the expectations related to key principles, such as evaluation rigor, relevance, transparency, independence, and ethics.”

This paper examines how current evaluation policies reference these five principles, exploring how equity relates to each principle, providing examples from agency policies, and recommending how federal agencies can incorporate equity into principles and standards moving forward.