A new online resource center created by the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative provides case studies about effective use of data by state and county governments, offering insights that can help leaders make more evidence-based policy decisions.
Officials are entrusted to provide critical services that, for example, protect vulnerable children from abuse or neglect, improve public safety, and prevent substance use and mental health disorders. But many leaders have limited information about whether such programs are effective.
As a result, they often rely on anecdotes or precedents when choosing which programs to fund—without clear evidence of whether they actually work. Policymakers can make more informed decisions and improve outcomes by examining the evidence behind the programs they fund, creating processes to track and continuously improve these services, and increasing the use of proven interventions.
The new resource center provides specific examples of how jurisdictions have used this approach in recent years to bolster programs and better serve constituents. For example, the New York Division of Criminal Justice Services revised procurement requirements to put a high priority on evidence-based programs that have been shown to reduce recidivism by up to 12 percent. In Maryland, meanwhile, Montgomery County created a uniform way to measure youth mentoring outcomes to help agency leaders better quantify the impact of specific programs at the community level.
Similarly, Texas reduced rates of abuse in programs for children and youth and improved behavioral health outcomes by prioritizing the use of evidence-based programs for this population. And in Iowa, the Department of Corrections conducted an inventory to determine which programs perform well—and which produce lackluster results.
The resource center is organized by the five components of evidence-based policymaking identified in the 2014 Results First report, “Evidence-Based Policymaking: A Guide for Effective Government.” The report highlighted the need for program assessment, budget development, implementation oversight, outcome monitoring, and targeted evaluation. Along with the case studies, the website offers information on each of the components, as well as links to other resources about implementing evidence-based policymaking.
More information about the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative can be found on the project webpage.
Sara Dube is a director and Darcy White is an officer with the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative.