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"Can we find out what works?"
Alice Rivlin
Congressional Budget Office


Before 1970, there was a sparse literature on the subject of policy evaluation. Then came an explosion, with a tilt toward evaluating the spate of Great Society programs spawned in the late 1960s under President Lyndon Johnson. Has evaluation research produced results which have fundamentally changed, perhaps improved, public policy making? Probably not, another loss for the proponents of the rational model.

Careful evaluation of policies is rarely utilized to improve, or terminate, public policies. The potential for bias requires that evaluation be approached critically. Still, despite drawbacks and the intrusion of political prejudice, evaluation methods are important, occasionally strategic, for effective public policy making.

Table of Contents

  1. Transition from formulation and implementation through evaluation back to agenda. This closes the loop, but is quite demanding.
  2. Examine some cases for orientation to evaluation:
    1. Common examples
    2. U.S.. public policy
    3. Sustainable development
  3. Evaluation explained:
    1. Definitions of evaluation
    2. Types of evaluation
  4. Historical roots of evaluation research
  5. Formal evaluation methodology
  6. Informal evaluation

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Initialized: May 22, 2001 | Last Update: November 21, 2003