Grant Helps Feds Use Evidence about Programs

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In a “top-down” effort to improve the quality and use of scientific evidence in policy areas that affect youth, the W.T. Grant Foundation has made a two-year, $200,000 award to the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy.

The Washington-based coalition is made up of more than a dozen researchers from some of the most well-regarded think tanks, research firms and academic institutions in the nation, including Harvard University, MDRC, Brookings Institution, Mathematica Policy Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Westat. It is a project of the nonprofit Council for Excellence in Government, a public/private partnership focused on improving the effectiveness of federal, state and local governments.

The coalition will use the grant to host informative workshops for federal agencies, and follow up with in-depth, individualized consulting, said Executive Director Jon Baron. So far, he said, the group has met with representatives of the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Labor.

“In the workshops, we talk about two concrete strategies,” Baron said. “One is to advance rigorous evaluations in order to build a body of research … in different areas of social policy. The second is to … focus program funds on proven approaches.”

Nearly all programs have limited funds for evaluation and struggle with how to get the most valuable evidence for their dollars. Knowing how to recognize rigor in evaluation designs is crucial to making decisions about evaluation funding, he said.

Baron said the coalition will urge agencies to require researchers who are bidding for federal contracts to use well-designed and implemented random controlled trials (RCTs) for the evaluation of agency programs or – if that “gold standard” is not possible – to use a well-matched comparison group study.

Contact: Jon Baron, (202) 530-3279,