Probably the most well-known and well-developed process by which a USG entity identifies needs, develops initiatives, and measures progress is MCCs process to select, implement, and evaluate bilateral aid agreements. In its core elements, the MCC approach directly embraces many of the characteristics of successful aid initiatives identified in the literature, including those that remain a challenge for both the public and private sectors. Local ownership of MCC initiatives is supported explicitly through the requirements of the application process, as well as recipient countries role in providing performance assessment frameworks and conducting evaluations with input from local institutions. MCC applies relatively consistent and well-developed metrics throughout all phases of its decision-makingsuch that other agencies often rely on MCC indicators (USAID 2007; U.S. Department of State 2007). These metrics have been developed independently by third parties, such as the World Bank, the United Nations, and other international agencies, lending the process both credibility and transparency in the international sector.
MCC agreements are multiyear, with clear requirements for continuation, so funding is relatively reliable once a nation enters into a compact. Broad country coverage and the potential for applying successful initiatives in other countries also are considered in evaluating potential compacts, which speaks to the importance of scale in MCCs approach. A prime motive for long-term funding is the idea that much of what is undertaken by MCC compacts can be considered reform, and so often require structural and policy changes. For example, the MCC-World Bank collaboration in Mozambiques water and sanitation sector required changes in the legal authority for local sanitation services (MCC 2008b). These require time for changes to become effective, and resources and technical support to ensure that the changes are successful. The MCC is committed to making these foundational investments, which require a willingness to focus on long-term objectives. MCCs aid, however, is tied to performance on a yearly basis, which suggests that the achievement of shorter-term objectives is still necessary. Indeed, one of the most common critiques of MCC is that it has disbursed aid too haltingly (Chassy 2005). As it continues to support current compacts and establish new ones, MCC may need to balance a demand for quick results with investments in the broader goals of prosperity and stability.
Another example comes from USAIDs recent reform of its policy framework. According to USAID, studies of USG foreign aid often have highlighted the governments overarching agendas and the lack of coherence in goals across aid programs to meet those agendas (2006). The numerous accounts responsible for foreign aid have been isolated, with different standards and methods of measuring progress. To address this issue and provide guidance and coherence in the application of assistance, the USAID now uses a policy framework based on five core goals for foreign aid: promoting transformational development, strengthening fragile states, supporting strategic states, providing humanitarian relief, and addressing global issues and other special concerns. For each goal, the framework provides guidance on program planning, resource allocation, and evaluation. The framework builds on the concept that different goals require distinct approaches to formulation and implementation, and also incorporates USAIDs desire to see more public-private partnerships and other new models of aid delivery as part of its initiatives. The five goals also reflect new directions in foreign aid post-9/11, including the support for fragile states and key allies, and the identification of global concerns, such as HIV/AIDS, which have broad impacts.
To further increase the effectiveness of foreign aid and harness the strengths of various agencies within USG, the office of the Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance has piloted a new strategic planning process that brings together those USG agencies delivering assistance within a country to collaborate on the top priorities for that nation (Greene 2008). The agencies collectively produce a Country Assistance Strategy document that outlines the top four or five assistance priorities for that country, taking into account the relative strengths and opportunities that each agency brings to the table and the particular needs of the country in question. This process theoretically minimizes the conflict of goals that can occur when multiple agencies are involved, reduces overlapping efforts, and enables the transfer of knowledge. As of 2008, the process has been piloted in 10 countries. This integration of agency efforts is not surprising, given the 2006 creation of the central Director of Foreign Assistance to oversee foreign aid, but it is not certain whether this process will facilitate a consolidation of the accounts and programs funded with USG aid or an increase in the number of USG agencies involved in international development. It is also unclear what role private organizations will play in this process, although it would make sense to include their efforts for consideration, since some large foundations have as much of a presence in some countries as USG agencies.
In the domestic arena, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have developed a Framework for Program Evaluation to ensure that amidst the complex transition in public health, [CDC] will remain accountable and committed to achieving measurable health outcomes (Milstein and Wetterhall 1999). The framework is a practical, nonprescriptive tool, designed for use by public health professionals (rather than professional evaluators), and it encourages the integration of evaluation practices into program operations. Although the framework is focused on the evaluation of individual programs, it is structured to allow CDC to make comparisons across programs. By attempting to build consistent, high-quality evaluation into all of its programs, the CDC hopes to employ this framework to support agency-wide planning and program development, as well as further evaluation.