The Forum views the following key principles as vital for expanding the use of evidence:
Integrate multiple types of evidence into decision-making
Data, statistics, performance improvement, evaluation, and social and behavioral sciences often have their own silos in government. There is one infrastructure for statistics and a separate infrastructure for evaluation, for example. Evidence-based policymaking works best when multiple types of evidence are created, collected, and presented to policymakers as a coherent, integrated package.
The infrastructure supporting evaluation lags behind the infrastructure for other types of evidence like statistics or data. Policymakers should work to close this gap by elevating the use and status of evaluations in government by creating or increasing the prominence of new positions to lead this work, formalizing practices in laws and statutes, and setting aside more funding for evaluations.
Use revenue-neutral approaches to scale the use of evidence
Policymakers should either: (1) use the same amount of funding on the same population and desired outcome, but the funding would be paid based on results achieved rather than services delivered. This is often referred to as a “pay for success” model, which was significantly expanded in the bipartisan 2018 budget agreement; (2) cut funding for an ineffective program and use that funding to fund another, more effective program for the same population and desired outcome; or (3) use evidence to improve a program so that better outcomes are accomplished using the same amount of funding. These approaches avoid large increases in funding that are infeasible given the current budget and ensure that decreases in funding do not tamper enthusiasm for evidence-based policy in general.
Advance evidence-based practices
Practices are a key part of evidence use as well. In addition to ‘brand-name’ proven programs, policymakers can also promote practices (generic types of interventions, and even particular elements and staff practices) to scale the use of evidence. Policymakers need to look inside the ‘black box’ of programs and find the core practices that truly make that program effective if they really want to scale what works. Focusing on practices can support local innovation, ensure flexibility, and drive improvement. Programs, in contrast, can lead to implementation challenges, a lack of local buy-in, and low sustainability.
Focus on the science of youth readiness
Too many young people move through adolescence and into adulthood without the abilities, skillsets and mindsets they need to manage life’s opportunities and challenges. The past decade has brought a growing sense of urgency and attention to the issues of readiness and equity. Readiness is the dynamic combination of being prepared for and willing to take advantage of life’s opportunities while managing its challenges. The Forum remains committed to promoting the science of youth readiness across all policy areas. For more information please look here.