Monthly Archives: September 2018

Value for Money: A Utilization-focused Approach to Economic Evaluation



Economic evaluation (EE) is not widely used in food and nutrition program evaluation and has had limited impact on decision-making (Williams, Bryan, & McIver, 2006; Zwart-Van Rijkom, Leufkens, Busschbach, Broekmans, & Rutten, 2000). Under-utilization of economic evaluation represents a missed opportunity to understand the full value of a program investment for the public good.

To advance the use of economic evaluation in food and nutrition programs, this poster:

  1. describes the Value for Money (VfM ) framework of economic evaluation,
  2. reviews existing models of evaluation to identify gaps within the dominant method of economic evaluation that contribute to under-utilization, and
  3. illustrates an approach to integrate VfM into a broader utilization-focused evaluation framework

Barriers to Utilization of Economic Evaluation

Institutional: The institutional barriers to utilizing economic evaluation include inflexible budgets and the often untimely availability of evaluation findings.

Cultural: The cultural barriers to utilizing economic evaluation include perceived irrelevance of evaluation findings and lack of stakeholder (decision-maker) ownership in the evaluation process.

Methodological: The methodological barriers to utilizing economic evaluation include the complexity of standard economic evaluation methods and the credibility of findings based on standard economic evaluation methods among stakeholders (decision-makers).

Utilization-focused Evaluation

Utilization-focused evaluation (UFE)  is an approach to evaluation based on the principle that evaluations should be done “for and with specific intended primary users for specific, intended uses” (Patton, 2008, p. 37)


UFE image

Value for Money

Economic evaluation: an applied moral philosophy and decision-making strategy which provides information about the merit, worth, and significance of resource use in public programs and policies compared to alternatives (King, 2017; Rudmik & Drummond, 2012).

Value for Money (VfM): a comprehensive framework of economic evaluation where value is expanded to include dimensions of efficiency, equity, effectiveness, and economy (4Es) (Fleming, 2013). The VfM framework is a promising framework for enhancing the relevance, credibility, and use of economic evaluation in social programs.

Figure 1 Value for Money Logic Model

  1. Economy: programs that bare the lowest cost, while maintaining a base level of quality
  2. Efficiency: the level of output achieved for a given level of inputs, also while bearing in mind quality
  3. Effectiveness: achieving positive program outcomes, while considering equity
  4. Equity: program activities and outcomes are distributed fairly and reduce disparity, marginalization and discrimination while increasing social and political inclusion (Fleming, 2013; Gaynor, 2017)

Benefits of Rubrics for Economic Evaluation

VfM rubrics are a utilization-focused evaluation tool for primary users and evaluators to draw evaluative conclusions from multiple data sources about the VfM of a program using explicit performance criteria.

Rubric Benefits

Example Community Gardens VfM Rubric

VfM rubric



Practice: Economic evaluation is an important component of evidence-based programs and policy. Increased utilization of economic evaluation contributes to decisions about the feasibility, scalability, sustainability, and equity of food and nutrition programs and policies to help organizations optimize the impact they make with the invested resources

Research: Future research should assess to what extent VfM rubrics improves the utility and use of economic evaluation among food and nutrition program stakeholders.