September 2019: Evidence-Based Policymaking Newsletter

The Federal Data Strategy: The Forum’s blog explains the Federal Data Strategy and recommends how the Year-One Action Plan could help advance evidence-based policymaking moving forward. The Forum’s official comments on the Year-One Action plan are here.

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What does 2019 mean for children’s cabinets?: Mary Ellen Wiggins, the Forum’s new Director of Policy and Research, looked at how how new governors and legislation are affecting state-level children’s cabinets across the country. The Forum runs networks of these children’s cabinets at the state and local level, which bring together policymakers across silos to promote youth wellbeing and success.

Case studies on using evidence for improvement: The Forum case studies highlight how the federal, state and local governments have used evidence for improvement. These case studies profile New York City’s Young Adult Literacy Program, ServeMinnesota’s Reading Corps program, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s housing choice voucher program, and changes to youth work experiences made under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. The Forum has also released a case study examining the bumpy relationship between sound evidence and changes to the Year-Round Pell Grant program.

The 2018 Opportunity Index is here: Opportunity Nation at the Forum for Youth Investment, with support from Child Trends, has updated the Opportunity Index measuring national, state and county trends in opportunity across four dimensions: economy, education, community, and health. The latest update also includes disaggregated data related to race/ethnicity and gender. You can view a video of the release event here.

With new evidence-based programs, how do you establish a decision-making process?: In an Op-Ed for Youth Today, Larry Pasti, Senior Director at the Forum, helps readers understand the numerous considerations that should go into launching a new program or strategy in their community. He also encourages local policymakers to look at both evidence-based programs as well as evidence-based components and kernels.

Elevating Evaluation

Evidence Act Guidance: In July, the Office of Management and Budget released guidance on the Phase 1 implementation of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (Evidence Act). The guidance details learning agendas, the appointment of personnel, and agency planning under the Evidence Act. This includes when agencies should submit their learning agendas, how to implement a data governance body, and the qualifications for key roles such as the Chief Evaluation Officer or Chief Data Officer. The guidance is the first of four that OMB plans to release under the Evidence Act.

How untapped data could support criminal justice reform: Arnold Ventures recently published a new article profiling SEARCH, a nonprofit that manages state criminal history databases and seeks to use this data to inform policy efforts. SEARCH has launched a new working group to develop a research agenda based on this data. Potential research opportunities could include documenting racial disparities, redefining success beyond recidivism, and documenting the expansive reach of the justice system.

How to make learning agendas useful: Andrew Feldman, director in public sector practice at Grant Thornton, writes in Government Executive that in order for learning agendas to be useful, agencies should clarify the purpose of their learning agenda, determine the best process for developing the learning agenda, and customize the learning agenda to fit agency needs, processes, and culture.

Evaluation of LEAP Initiative: The Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Corporation for National and Community Service’s Social Innovation Fund launched Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential (LEAP) in 2015. The multistate effort utilizes two employment and education models (Jobs for America’s Graduates and JFF’s Back on Track) to opportunities for systems-involved young people. MDRC has evaluated 10 LEAP sites. A webinar will explore these evaluation findings on September 19th at 3:30pm. Register today!

Evidence-Based Practices

Precision Home Visiting: Lauren Supplee from Child Trends and the Home Visiting Applied Research Collaborative and Anne Duggan from Johns Hopkins University have released a new article on innovative research methods to advance precision in home visiting. The article asks if home visiting programs can improve outcomes more efficiently overall and for specific subgroups of families. The article examines how a precision approach used in other fields might support home visiting programs by identifying ingredients of home visiting models and collaborating with practitioners to test these ingredients through new study designs.

Integrating Multiple Types of Evidence

Cross-agency efforts to support youth and families: Bellwether Education Partners is inviting a new cohort of leaders to submit preliminary letters of interest to engage in an 18-month planning process to improve the ways in which local, regional, and state agencies communicate and collaborate across their historical silos to support youth and families who experience significant disruptions to their education and life pathways. Letters of interest are due September 30th.

Integrating data systems across policy silos: A new case study from Robert Fischer and his colleagues at Case Western Reserve University describes a mature county-based integrated system in order to highlight the value of integrated data systems to research, outline common challenges that these systems face, and present several considerations that could inform policy recommendations to facilitate the use of integrated data.

Data-informed partnerships between health systems and community-based organizations: Mathematica released a new commentary exploring the potential benefits of data partnerships between health systems and community-based organizations. The commentary notes that key barriers often include concerns about data privacy, system interoperability, and financing. Still, these partnerships have the potential to predict “hot spots,” deliver services where they are needed most, and disentangle the underlying health impact of policies.

Co-designing local open data programs: The Sunlight Foundation has published a new guide for local governments on how to co-design their open data programs with community partners. The guide explains why co-design processes are important for open data platforms and recommends key tasks such as hosting public event, conducting feedback surveys, collaborating on open source tools, and hosting design workshops.

Evidence for Improvement

Results First makes NREPP programs available: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP) was taken offline in August 2018. The Results First team has now updated their Clearinghouse Database so that over 80 percent of this information is still available online.

Evidence lights the way: Adam Gamoran, President of the William T. Grant Foundation, has written a new article for Science magazine highlighting bright spots in evidence-based policymaking at the federal and state levels. These include the recent Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, the Family First Prevention Services Act, research practice partnerships, and philanthropic efforts.

A checklist for evidence-based government: Governing Magazine contributors Andrew Feldman and Kathy Stack argue that policymakers should use a checklist to determine how well they are building an evidence-based governing culture within their agencies. Based on Results for America’s Invest in What Works State Standard of Excellence, the checklist includes information on leadership, strategic management, evaluation capacity, data sharing, and more.

Research-Practice Partnerships

Working together to enhance the use of research in policy and practice: The William T. Grant Foundation has released a new commentary highlighting how researchers, practitioners and policymakers can collaborate to develop and use research to tackle the most pressing problems communities are facing. The commentary details how the Pew Charitable Trusts uses expert intermediaries to facilitate engagement and how the William T. Grant Foundation uses research-practice partnerships to promote the production and use of research. Both organizations have committed to synthesizing existing knowledge, developing a cross-sectoral community of researchers and policymakers, and convening a cross-sector group of funders to share effective ideas.

How can RPPs avoid failure: the William T. Grant Foundation has released a new report examining five ways research-practice partnerships can fail and how practitioners can avoid these pitfalls. The five ways these partnerships can fail include: expecting agencies to set the research agenda, excluding critical partners from the table, overlooking the power of descriptives, producing the wrong deliverables at the wrong times, and undervaluing brokers. The report offers important lessons on how to avoid all of these common challenges.

Research-practice partnerships microsite: The William T. Grant Foundation has updated their microsite on research-practice partnerships. The site includes guiding tips for practitioners, work samples from successful partnerships, and resources to help policymakers get started. The microsite was updated with assistance from the Forum.