Articles we like

Practical Evaluation Strategies for Building a Body of Proven-Effective Social Programs: Suggestions for Research and Program Funders.

The Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy. October 2013.

The Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy is an American non-profit organization dedicated to increasing government effectiveness by promoting the highest standards of program evaluation. In this brief guide, the Coalition points out that most programs that have been rigorously evaluated have had negligible impacts. Rather than despairing at this situation, the Coalition treats it as a call to arms. They make a series of step-by-step recommendations to maximize the probability that program investments will result in positive returns for participants and the taxpayer:

  • Recognize that programs in the design and development phase may not be ready for rigorous evaluation.
  • For programs that are ready for evaluation, use random assignment techniques whenever possible, using evaluators experienced in such techniques.
  • To reduce costs, embed evaluation principles such as random assignment and outcome measurement into program operations.
  • Due to their high cost, comprehensive evaluations should be focused on the most promising and best designed interventions.
  • Evaluations should be staged so that long-term outcomes are only evaluated once intermediate impacts have been established.

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Can the government play Moneyball? How a new era of fiscal scarcity could make Washington work better.

The Atlantic Monthly. July/August 2013.

Two former officials from the Obama and Bush administrations argue that tightening government budgets are creating the necessary conditions for an increased focus on the effectiveness of program spending. “Moneyball” is a reference to a small budget baseball team, the Oakland As, using statistical analysis to build a team that outperformed most large budget competitors. The authors describe significant barriers to the application of statistical and other empirical evaluation techniques to the assessment of the efficiency of entrenched government programs. However, they are optimistic that the fiscal environment and promising models, such as the US Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation (i3) program and New York’s Center for Economic Opportunity, will lead to a greater demand for program data collection, analysis, and informed decision-making.

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