Launching and implementing a successful lean initiative in state government — insights from Colorado: An interview with Henry Sobanet, Director of the Office of State Planning and Budgeting, State of Colorado – Episode #101

Colorado is a leader among U.S. states in involving state employees in efforts to make state government agencies and programs more efficient and effective through a so-called lean approach. Lean techniques were developed in manufacturing settings, most famously at Toyota, and have since been applied to service settings, including government agencies. Under Governor John Hickenlooper, Colorado launched its lean initiative in 2011 and it has lead to about 200 projects within state agencies and has trained about 2,500 state employees in lean techniques.

To learn more, we are joined by Henry Sobanet, the Director of the Office of State Planning and Budgeting in Colorado, who has spearheaded the state’s lean efforts for Governor Hickenlooper.

Web extra: Henry Sobanet discusses Colorado’s involvement in the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative which is working with 19 states and several counties to implement an innovative cost-benefit analysis approach that helps jurisdictions invest in policies and programs that are backed by strong evidence that they work. [click here]

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A bold proposal to catalyze progress on key social policy challenges, called the Ten Year Challenge: An interview with Jeffrey Liebman, Professor, Harvard Kennedy School – Episode #100

How can the nation catalyze progress on key social policy challenges? A bold proposal, called the Ten Year Challenge, calls for selecting ten important social challenges and then having the federal government fund ten communities or states to address each challenge (so 100 experiments in total), while rigorously evaluating the results. The goal would be to generate a few breakthrough approaches that could be scaled up.

To learn more, we’re joined by the proposal’s author, Jeffrey Liebman, who presented the proposal in a paper published by Results for America and the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution. Liebman is a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, Director of the Taubman Center for State and Local Government, and Director of the Government Performance Lab at the Kennedy School. He previously served on the leadership team of the White House Office of Management and Budget and, prior to that, served as an economic advisor to candidate Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign.

On which challenges could the initiative focus? In the paper, Liebman provides examples, including “reducing recidivism among ex-offenders, raising third-grade reading and math skills among low-income children living in high-poverty neighborhoods, preventing youth from dropping out of high school, helping chronically unemployed individuals obtain and keep jobs, raising community college completion rates, reducing obesity-triggered diabetes, eliminating chronic and/or family homelessness, and helping developmentally-disabled youth make successful transitions into the adult workforce, among many others.”

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Reducing bullying in schools through a peer-based strategy: An interview with Betsy Levy Paluck, Professor, Princeton University – Episode #99

There is growing awareness in the U.S. of the problem of bullying in middle and high school. Between a third and a fourth of all students say they have been bullied by other students, whether verbal, physical, and emotional. The potential consequences of bullying and harassment, including violence in schools, has highlighted the need for effective strategies to reduce bullying.

To highlight one evidence-based strategy, we’re joined by Betsy Levy Paluck (@betsylevyp). She is a professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University and an expert in the psychology of social norms, social influence, and behavior change. Along with her co-author Hana Shepherd, she ran a unique field experiment that shows that targeting the most influential students in a school can be a key factor in reducing bullying.

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Applying behavioral insights through the EAST (Easy, Attractive, Social, Timely) framework: An interview with Simon Ruda, UK Behavioral Insights Team – Episode #98

How can public leaders, whether you’re running a large department or a small program, apply the insights of behavioral economics and other behavioral sciences to improve results? A simplified framework for the application of behavioral insights was developed by the U.K. Behavioral Insights Team (@B_I_Tweets) provides a useful way to start. The framework is called “EAST,” which stands for Easy, Attractive, Social and Timely. As the team notes: “Though we do not claim that EAST is a comprehensive summary of all there is to know about behavioral science, we do think that for busy policymakers, the EAST framework is an accessible, simple way to make more effective and efficient policy.”

To learn more, we’re joined by Simon Ruda who is a director at the Behavioral Insights Team.  

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How a small nonprofit in New Mexico achieves big good government wins: An interview with Fred Nathan, Executive Director, Think New Mexico – Episode #97

This podcast usually focuses on results-focused government, but our topic today is running a results-focused state think tank — with insights about making change that can be relevant more broadly.

If you’re not from New Mexico, you may not have heard of the nonpartisan nonprofit called Think New Mexico (@ThinkNewMexico). Its record of accomplishment, however, is worth paying attention no matter where you live. With only a four full time staff, plus interns, it has helped bring about a dozen landmark laws over the past 16 years.

To get insights into Think New Mexico’s unique approach, we’re joined by Fred Nathan. He founded Think New Mexico in 1999 and has served as its Executive Director ever since.

Web extra: Fred Nathan discusses Think New Mexico’s current initiative, infrastructure spending reform. [click here]

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Improving the outcomes of disadvantaged youth by teaching them to be less automatic: An interview with Jens Ludwig, Director, University of Chicago Crime Lab – Episode #96

JensHow can we help disadvantaged youth avoid negative outcomes such as delinquency and dropout? A recent NBER working paper presents findings from three randomized control trials that help low-income young people slow down and consider whether their quick, automatic responses are useful for a given situation. The paper is co-authored by Sara Heller, Anuj Shah, Jonathan Guryan, Jens Ludwig, Sendhil Mullainathan and Harold Pollack.

All three studies show sizable positive effects. The first, which tests a program carried out within the Chicago Public Schools called Becoming a Man (BAM), shows that participation reduced violent-crime arrests by 44% and improved schooling outcomes. The second, also of BAM, reduced overall arrests by 31%. And the third, carried out in the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, saw reductions in return rates to the center by 22%.

To learn more, we’re joined by Jens Ludwig (@profjensludwig). He is a professor at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago and the Director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab.

Web extra: Jens Ludwig describes the mission of the University of Chicago Crime Lab as well as the University of Chicago Urban Labs of which it is a part. [click here]

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Using behavioral insights to improve government performance: An interview with Maya Shankar, Chair, White House Social and Behavioral Science Team – Episode #95

On September 15th, 2015, President Obama issued an Executive Order encouraging federal agencies to apply behavioral insights in their programs, policies, and operations. On the same day, the White House Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST) released its first annual report that details the results of 15 different collaborative projects with agencies to apply insights from behavioral economics and other behavioral sciences to improve program outcomes and help tackle agency challenges.

To highlight some lessons from this work for public leaders at the federal, state and local levels, we’re joined by Maya Shankar. She is the Senior Advisor for the Social and Behavioral Sciences at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and leads the SBST.

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How to design performance measures to better measure impact: An interview with Peter Schochet, Senior Fellow, Mathematica Policy Research – Episode #94

 How can public leaders and program managers track the performance of different sites within a program in a way that reflects impact — i.e., the value added of each site? The most rigorous approach is to run a rigorous program evaluation, such as a randomized controlled trial, by site, but that type of evaluation is not always feasible. Another approach (the most common one) is to use performance measures, since they are low-cost and easy to implement, but there’s a downside: They aren’t necessarily good indicators of impact. That’s because the performance of sites are effected by local conditions and demographics, not just program quality.

Our interview focuses on public leaders can design performance measures to better reflect impact, including through the use of regression-adjusted performance measures — that is, measures that statistically control for factors that aren’t related to program quality. We get insights from Peter Schochet. He’s a Senior Fellow at Mathematica Policy Research, a leading authority on evaluation methodology, and the co-author of an article in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management on this topic.

In the interview, he describes how regression-adjusted performance measures can be useful, especially if there is good baseline data, measures are not overly complex and align well with the most relevant outcomes of interest, and (when relevant) if there is longer-term follow-up data.

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Strengthening a culture of data-driven decision making: An interview with Carter Hewgley, Enterprise Analytics Division Director, FEMA – Episode #93

How can public agencies strengthen a culture of data-driven decision making? We explore that question with Carter Hewgley, the Enterprise Analytics Division Director at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). He has been leading data-driven initiatives at the local, state and federal levels for the past ten years. In 2011, he began leading FEMAStat, FEMA’s version of PerformanceStat, with its data-driven conversations among the agency’s executives. Today he leads the division at FEMA that helps build analytical capability across the agency.

Web extras: Carter Hewgley discusses why additional analytical capability, beyond the “stat” approach is also useful. [click here] He also discusses FEMA’s efforts to empower employees with data, ranging from data on disaster responses by FEMA to internal processes such as tracking hiring. [click here]

Photo: Carter Hewgley providing on-site registration after a tornado in Moore, Okla., 2013. Credit: FEMA.
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Connecting decision makers with high-quality research through the What Works Clearinghouse: An interview with Joy Lesnick of the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education – Episode #92

How can public agencies help decision makers at the state and local levels to make evidence-based decisions? A useful strategy is to create a clearinghouse of credible research about what works. A leading example is the What Works Clearinghouse (@WhatWorksED), run by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) at the U.S. Department of Education. Launched in 2002, it reviews the research on the different programs, products, practices, and policies in education, with about 11,000 studies reviewed so far. It then summarizes high-quality research to help decision makers know what works in education.

To learn more, we’re joined by Joy Lesnick who oversees the work of the Clearinghouse in her role as an Acting Commissioner within IES.

Web extras: Joy Lesnick discusses the resources it takes to run the What Works Clearinghouse. [click here] She also provides suggestions for other agencies that may be considering launching a clearinghouse. [click here]

Additional resources: Check out other Federal clearinghouses, including from DOL, DOJ, HHS and SAMHSA. Also, the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative has created a Clearinghouse Database that combines the findings of eight national research clearinghouses.

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