Federal Agencies Lead with Results

By Jed Herrmann, Vice President, State and Federal Policy Implementation, and David Medina, Co-Founder and COO, Results for America

While it is not often featured in national headlines, a growing bipartisan movement is helping the federal government get better results for the American people. This movement is founded on the belief that government can use evidence and data to improve outcomes for our nation’s young people, their families, and communities. Results for America’s 2019 Federal Standard of Excellence illustrates how nine federal social services agencies are harnessing the power of evidence and data to invest taxpayer dollars in what works.

2019 Invest in What Works Federal Standard of Excellence

These leading federal agencies have:

  • Effectively ended veteran homelessness in 72 communities and three states while reducing the overall number of chronically homeless individuals by 16% between 2010 and 2018 through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Continuum of Care program by allocating up to 56 points (out of 200) to grant applicants for past “performance related to reducing homelessness.”
  • Expanded the number of children being served by results-driven organizations like Minnesota Reading Corps by 6,000 students between 2014 and 2018 by allocating 16 points out of 100 to grant applicants seeking funds from the Corporation for National and Community Service’s AmeriCorps State and National program.
  • In Burkina Faso schools, increased enrollment of girls by 10.3%, improved test scores, and grew graduation rates by using real-time lessons from an independent evaluation during implementation of the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s program.
  • Helped 8,000 coffee farmers in Central America to increase their yields by 34 percent, grow sales by 24 percent, and mobilize over $3 million of rural financing through U.S. Agency for International Development’s use of data in its development programs.

Committed federal civil servants and a growing number of bipartisan Members of Congress have played important roles in increasing the federal government’s efforts to use evidence and data to get better results for young people, families, and their communities. One important measure of this progress is the bipartisan Foundations for Evidence-based Policymaking Act, which took effect in early 2019 and increases the federal government’s evidence generation activities. This adds to the momentum of agencies to get better results by increasing their capacity to build and use evidence, such as:

  • Administration for Community Living: Continued to significantly improve its overall evidence-building capacity, including training its program staff on ways to include evidence and data requirements in the agency’s funding notices.
  • U.S. Department of Education: Used a consistent evidence framework for its research and funding decisions, including its prioritization of evidence in its largest competitive grant programs.
  • U.S. Department of Labor: Began implementation of the evidence requirements in the Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessment (RESEA) program, including awarding $130 million to states to operate RESEA programs that meet the law’s evidence requirements.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Provided extensive technical assistance materials to grantees to help them improve their use of evidence-based practices.

Collectively, these nine agencies, which invest more than $220 billion annually, are among the top performing federal agencies on evidence, data, and evaluation across the federal government. Their efforts to build and use evidence will provide an example for agencies across the federal government as they implement the significant new requirements of the Evidence Act between now and 2022.

Not only is this movement powerful but it also bipartisan. As John Bridgeland, former White House Domestic Policy Council Director under President George W. Bush noted: “Doing what works is a powerful antidote to the rancor of partisan politics. Evidence-based policy brings people together to make real gains that can improve the lives of all Americans.” Further the new What Works Congressional Caucus creates a framework to encourage further bipartisan cooperation to do what works.

Despite not making national headlines everyday, significant progress is being made every day to increase the federal government’s knowledge about and investments in what works. By infusing evidence and data into its budget, policy, and management decisions, the federal government can continue to ensure that we advance economic mobility across the country at the pace and scale our country needs.

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