A primer on the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking’s recommendations: An interview with Nick Hart, Bipartisan Policy Center – Episode #160

While Democrats and Republicans can’t seem to agree on much these days, there was a bright spot for bipartisanship recently: Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Democratic Senator Patty Murray joined together to praise the recommendations of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (CEP), which Ryan and Murray launched last year. The Commission was co-chaired by Katharine Abraham of the University of Maryland and Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution.

Some of the Commission’s key recommendations focus on making the most of the data the government already collects by giving qualified researchers—including academics as well as evaluation experts within government—greater access to data from government programs and surveys. At the same time, the CEP calls for strengthening privacy protections to ensure that those data are not misused. It also recommends ways that departments can increase their evidence capacity, meaning their ability to use and build evidence about what works.

To learn more, we are joined by Nick Hart (@NickrHart) who served as the Policy and Research Director for the Commission. Today he is the director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Evidence-Based Policymaking Initiative.

Strategies to sustain program impacts for children and adolescents: An interview with Greg Duncan, Professor, University of California, Irvine – Episode #159

Many interventions that aim to increase the cognitive or socioemotional skills of children and adolescents have shown positive results, but far too often their impacts quickly disappear as children get older. Some programs, in contrast, have shown longer-lasting effects. In a new study published in the Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, Greg Duncan and his co-authors set out to identify the key features of interventions that can be expected to sustain persistently beneficial program impacts. They include:

  • Skill building: Identifying key skills and building them in an intervention, producing impacts into the future. That might include analytical thinking, delayed gratification delay or grit
  • Foot in the door: Designing the right intervention at the right time to help a child or adolescent through a period of risk or opportunity, such as interventions that keep young people from repeating grades.
  • Sustaining environments: Providing additional interventions that build on the gains of the initial intervention, essentially creating “recharging stations” to sustain initial gains.

To learn more, we are joined by Greg Duncan. He is a Distinguished Professor in the School of Education at the University of California, Irvine.

Related interviews: Also see Greg Duncan’s interviews on how states can optimize their pre-K programs [click here] and how successful school systems are closing achievement gaps [click here].

The use of impact bonds around the world: An interview with Emily Gustafsson-Wright, Fellow, Center for Universal Education, The Brookings Institution – Episode #157

Social Impact Bonds, also called Pay for Success projects in the U.S., draw on private sources of capital to fund preventive services, with governments acting as the outcome funders, paying back the money with a profit if specific targets are met. The approach started in the U.K. and is now being used in many different countries. A related strategy has also been created — Development Impact Bonds — that, as the name suggests, are primarily used in developing countries. They are used to social interventions and involve third parties, such as a donor agencies or a foundations, as the outcome funders, rather than governments. Overall, an estimated $200 million in upfront private capital has been leveraged by impact bonds for social services worldwide over the last six years, an amount that is expected to triple by 2020.

To learn more about global trends in impact bonds, we are joined by Emily Gustafsson-Wright (@EGWBrookings), a Fellow at the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution. She is the co-author of the recent report, The Potential and Limitations of Impact Bonds: Lessons from the First Five Years of Experience Worldwide.

How states can use ESSA to focus education spending on what works: An interview with Tom Kane, Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education – Episode #158

The bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was enacted in December 2015. ESSA gives states more opportunities to design their own educational systems, while also encouraging and sometimes requiring them to use evidence-based approaches that can help improve student outcomes.

Our guest today, Thomas Kane, joins us for part two of our conversation about how states can use ESSA to focus education spending on what works. Our earlier conversation on the podcast focused on how states can use “efficacy networks” to test strategies for school improvement. Today we focus on another important strategy for state education leaders. Tom Kane is a professor of education and economics at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and faculty director of the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard.

Helping nonprofits build and use evidence through Project Evident: An interview with Kelly Fitzsimmons, Founder and Managing Director, Project Evident – Episode #156

Project Evident (@project_evident) launched earlier this year to help nonprofit leaders and their funders develop and implement multi-year evidence-building plans – plans that can help those nonprofits to provide evidence-based programs. The effort is lead by Kelly Fitzsimmons, formerly of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, and Scott Cody, formerly of Mathematica. One of the underlying motivations for the initiative is this: While many funders want to fund research that would lead to a third-party rigorous evaluation that measures program impact, nonprofits and funders often could use help in designing and implementing the steps that can lead to that type of rigorous evaluation work.

To learn more, we are joined by Kelly Fitzsimmons, the founder and the managing director for network and strategy of Project Evident.

How the Connecticut Green Bank is catalyzing green energy infrastructure: An interview with Bryan Garcia, President and CEO, CT Green Bank – Episode #155

The Connecticut Green Bank (@CTGreenBank) is designed to help mobilize more private investment and accelerate the growth of green energy, such as solar power, in order to create jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and lower energy bills. It is the nation’s first state-sponsored bank to promote lower cost financing for clean energy. Since 2011, for every public dollar invested, the bank has attracted six dollars of private investment, creating about 13,000 jobs so far and driving $1 billion of clean energy investment across the state. That has boosted clean power and reduced clean energy prices by about 20 to 30 percent. Other states and cities are now following Connecticut’s lead with similar efforts.

For its achievements, the Green Bank won the Innovations in American Government Award for 2017, sponsored by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School. It plans to use the prize money to relaunch the Green Bank Academy to help more jurisdictions launch green banks.

To learn more, we are joined by Bryan Garcia, the president and CEO of the Connecticut Green Bank.

Additional resources: Mark Muro of the Brookings Institution and colleagues provide information on green banks here and here.

Insights from C-Stat in Colorado at year 5: An interview with Reggie Bicha, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Human Services – Episode #154

The Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) recently celebrated five years of C-Stat, its performance management and leadership strategy and one of the leading examples in the U.S. of data-informed decision making in human services. Through C-Stat, CDHS reviews about 100 measures each month. Two-thirds of those measures have maintained or beat their goals set in the C-Stat process. As Executive Director Reggie Bicha (@reggiebicha) has noted, “We can see in real time when something goes wrong — and we’re committed to fixing it.”

To get a C-Stat update, we are joined by Reggie Bicha, who has led CDHS since being appointed by Governor John Hickenlooper in 2011. Prior to his current role, he was the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families under Governor Jim Doyle — the first person to hold that title in the newly created department.

Related interviews:  Ki’i Powell, then-Performance Management Director at CDHS, spoke in detail about the C-Stat process in her 2014 podcast interview. [click here] Also, Reggie Bicha spoke about KidsStat at the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families in his 2013 podcast interview. [click here]

Launching an applied research team within city government: An interview with David Yokum, Director, The Lab @ DC – Interview #153

In 2016, the District of Columbia launched The Lab @ DC, based in the Office of the City Administrator within the Office of Mayor Muriel Bowser. Its mission: To embed the scientific method into the heart of day-to-day governance of the city to provide decision makers with high-quality evidence in order to improve results for the city. As its website notes, The Lab “generates timely, relevant, and high-quality ideas and evidence to inform the District’s most important decisions because DC residents deserve a government that asks questions, tests policies, and iteratively improves how it serves the community.”

To learn more, we are joined by the Lab’s founding director, David Yokum. Prior to his work with DC, he was one of the founders of the Social and Behavioral Sciences Team at the White House, which applied insights from the behavioral sciences to improving federal agency operations.

How New Zealand links data from public data sets to address important policy challenges: An interview with Kelvin Watson, Deputy Chief Executive, Statistics New Zealand – Episode #152

Statistics New Zealand (@Stats_NZ) is the government department of New Zealand charged with collecting and producing statistical information. It is known as a leader in terms of linking data from different data sets in order to enable research and insights into important and complex policy challenges with the goal of improving outcomes for New Zealanders. For over ten years, Stats NZ (as it is also called) has been working on data integration including the creation of the Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI) in 2011. Today the IDI is is a large research database containing microdata from a range of government agencies, including over 165 billion facts.

To learn more, we are joined by Kelvin Watson, the Deputy Chief Executive for Data Services at Stats NZ.

Linking data to improve human services while working within privacy laws: An interview with Erin Dalton and Brian Bell, Allegheny County Department of Human Services – Episode #151

The Department of Human Services (DHS) in Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh, is a leader in the use of data to continually improve services for its residents. In 1999, DHS created its Data Warehouse that consolidated its human services data relating to topics such as behavioral health, child welfare and homeless services. It then expanded this database to include data from other county agencies as well as the Pittsburgh Public Schools.

How was the department able to link data across programs and with providers, given what often seems like insurmountable privacy laws that can make data sharing difficult? We get insights from Erin Dalton, the Deputy Director for the Office of Data Analysis, Research and Evaluation (DARE), and Brian Bell, a supervisor within DARE and also the privacy officer at the department.

Our interview builds on an earlier conversation with Erin Dalton that provides an overview of the Data Warehouse.