Penn State’s Evidence-to-Impact Collaborative (EIC) has been awarded an infrastructure grant supporting the transition and development of state-of-the-art tools to accelerate evidence-informed policymaking. This two-year award from The Pew Charitable Trusts provides over $1.4 million and the transfer to the EIC of three key Results First Initiative assets: the Results First Clearinghouse Database, the cost-benefit model, and the Evidence-Based Policymaking Resource Center.
States and counties spend billions of dollars each year on critical services and programs to help protect and improve public health, protect children from abuse and neglect, support reentry for formerly incarcerated individuals, and improve education, among many other important goals—yet government leadership often lacks comprehensive information about the impact of those expenditures.
The Results First Initiative, established in 2010 through a more than $30 million investment from The Pew Charitable Trusts and the MacArthur Foundation, has worked to fill this gap by creating a national infrastructure to support the use of scientific evidence in governments in states and municipalities across the country. Since Results First’s inception, its tools have been used by 27 state governments and 10 counties, have informed dozens of pieces of legislation, and have received numerous awards—including from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and the American Society for Public Administration. Read more about the transition here.
“The EIC is the right organization to house these Results First assets, and the partnerships among the EIC, NCSL, and Pew will create powerful synergies among great research universities, state and local policymakers, and government staff,” said Sara Dube, project director of the Results First Initiative for The Pew Charitable Trusts and a key collaborator with the EIC on the infrastructure grant.
Results First Clearinghouse Database
The first asset to transition to the EIC will be the Results First Clearinghouse Database—a nationally recognized “clearinghouse of clearinghouses” for evidence-based programs across an array of policy domains.
With information on over 3,000 programs, the Results First Clearinghouse provides a singular home for federal, state, and local policymakers seeking the latest information about what works and the state of the scientific evidence of each program. This includes data and partnerships with clearinghouses such as the IES’s What Works Clearinghouse, Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development, California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare, Arnold Ventures’ Social Programs That Work, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Evidence-Based Cancer Control Programs, the U.S. Department of Justice’s CrimeSolutions.gov, the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute, and Robert Wood Johnson’s County Health Rankings and Roadmaps/What Works for Health.
The Results First Clearinghouse Database plays a role in policymaking around the country—being explicitly named as a resource to identify what works in different contexts, to develop budget proposals, to improve contracts, and to enhance educational curricula.
This award will also make the EIC the home for optimizing and implementing a unique cost-benefit tool used by state legislators across the country to support evidence-based budget-making. Based upon the groundbreaking model created by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP), this tool provides tailored estimates of the return on investment from supporting evidence-based strategies in public programs.
The model enables state and county governments to estimate the expected return on investment for programs they fund or are considering funding. What makes the model unique is that it uses a consistent approach for analyzing programs within a policy area, such as adult mental health, child welfare, or juvenile justice, allowing policymakers to make an “apples-to-apples” comparison between different program benefits and costs. Government leaders can then use this information to help inform their programmatic funding decisions and ensure that they are making the best use of taxpayer dollars. This tool has helped guide the investment of over a billion dollars in public resources to evidence-based strategies—ultimately helping avert billions in projected public costs.
Center for Evidence-Informed Policymaking
Finally, the EIC will be the home for the new Center for Evidence-Informed Policymaking, based on the Evidence-Based Policymaking Resource Center—providing key resources for policy and scientific audiences seeking to learn about, receive training on, and engage in crafting policies based on scientific evidence. It contains resources that include briefs exploring their key elements, fact sheets highlighting best practices to approach each one, and analyses of states and counties implementing them in their jurisdictions.
State and local government leaders can use these resources to explore innovative ideas, identify promising practices, and inform their own strategies for creating a more effective government. The Center will also house existing EIC resources and outreach models such as the Evidence-to-Impact Podcast, the Insight from Experts blog series, and the Research-to-Policy brief series.
“For over a decade, Results First has led the field in supporting state and local evidence-based policymaking,” said Max Crowley, director of the Evidence-to-Impact Collaborative and principal investigator on the award. “We are deeply honored that The Pew Charitable Trusts is entrusting us to grow Results First at Penn State and offer these tools alongside other strategies operated by the EIC. These assets, combined with existing resources, will make the EIC a one-stop shop for supporting evidence-based policymaking,”
This work includes a key partnership with NCSL, which will operate the Governing for Results Network within the NCSL Center for Results-Driven Governing. This multistate learning network engages state legislators, budget directors, and legislative and agency staff who are advancing the use of evidence and data across branches of government. The partnership with NCSL will help to accelerate evidence-informed policymaking by connecting EIC’s resources with this network of state evidence leaders.
The work also welcomes partnership with VanGaard Evidence-Based Consulting LLC, operated by Gary VanLandingham, the former director of Results First and the Reubin O’Donovan Askew Senior Practitioner in Residence at Florida State University’s Askew School of Public Administration.
Part of the Social Science Research Institute, the EIC is a research center and information hub for the science of using social science—aiming to improve the data, methods, and processes related to research, the dissemination of evidence, and to understand the impacts of the use of research evidence on societal well-being. The EIC leverages expertise in administrative data, program evaluation, and researcher-policymaker relationships for social investment optimization. As part of this new award, the EIC will seek competitive applications for faculty fellowships and graduate fellowships in evidence-based policymaking in spring 2022.
The following video, produced by Pew’s Results First Initiative, provides an overview of the effort: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=MXUEBloG-tU