Public policymaking is a high-stakes business that affects millions of citizens and budgets ranging in the billions of tax dollars in even the smallest of states. Policymakers need timely evaluative information reported in understandable language by unbiased sources. It is this need that evaluators at all levels of government, as well as those in many nonprofit organizations, seek to meet as they conduct evaluations, analyze policy options, and recommend action on the part of policymakers. The authors contributing to this volume examine theoretical and practical approaches to designing evaluation projects in ways that promote the use of evaluation results in high-stakes settings.
The volume explores management of the politics of evaluation, which can be accomplished by considering the context in which an evaluation occurs and examining strategies for maximizing both evaluators' independence from and their responsiveness to key stakeholders. Unconventional approaches, such as prospective evaluation and development of analytical tools for use by agency personnel, are examined, as is promotion of evaluation use through a symbiotic relationship with performance measurement. The chapter authors discuss utilization strategies as applied to evaluations of public health, education, and corrections programs. The final chapter provides sage advice to evaluators on how to impact policy development.