Image for post
Image for post

2020 Invest in What Works Federal Standard of Excellence Agency Snapshots: The Who and The What

These Federal Agency Snapshots showcase how nine agencies lead the federal government in evidence-based policy

Launched in 2013, Results for America’s annual Invest in What Works Federal Standard of Excellence (Federal Standard of Excellence) serves as a “north star” for how federal agencies and departments can consistently and effectively use data and evidence in budget, policy, and management decisions to achieve better outcomes for their residents.

  • Administration for Community Living (within HHS)
  • U.S. Agency for International Development
  • AmeriCorps (formerly the Corporation for National and Community Service)
  • U.S. Department of Education
  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • U.S. Department of Labor
  • Millennium Challenge Corporation
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (within HHS)
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post

Administration for Children and Families
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Even prior to the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (Evidence Act), the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services invested in a robust approach to infuse data and evidence in budget, policy, and management decisions. The agency’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Planning, Research, and Evaluations leads the Office of Planning Research and Evaluation and oversees an evaluation team of 68 staff. In FY20, ACF had a total research and evaluation budget of $208 million. In fact, ACF was among the first of federal agencies to publicly release an agency-wide evaluation framework with its FY12 policy “to govern our planning, conduct, and use of evaluation.”

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post

Administration for Community Living
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

The Administration for Community Living (ACL), an operating division within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, first participated in the 2018 Invest in What Works Federal Standard of Excellence, and has since accelerated its efforts to build an agency focused on performance and research.

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post

U.S. Agency for International Development

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) continues to be a leader in data-driven innovation and evidence-based investing. As part of these efforts, the Agency invests in research and development to scale effective innovations through the Grand Challenges for Development grant competition. To date, this initiative has funded $155 million in grants and technical assistance for 528 innovators in 107 countries, many of which have secured sustainable funding. A similar program, the Development Innovations Ventures (DIV), considers evidence of effectiveness to fund and scale grantees with innovative solutions. Over the past eight years, DIV has invested $118 million in nearly 200 innovations across 45 countries.

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post

AmeriCorps

Over the past several years, AmeriCorps (the operating name adopted for the Corporation for National and Community Service) has been the federal government’s leader on evidence-based investing. In FY20, the agency’s flagship grant program, AmeriCorps State and National, invested the majority of its grants in interventions with a moderate or strong evidence base. The allocation of 51% of funds to evidence-based grantees in FY20, a 10% increase from FY19, constitutes a major achievement and is delivering real impact in communities across the country.

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post

U.S. Department of Education

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has been a long-time leader in evidence-based policy. Convening key personnel from across the Department has been a driver of ED’s efforts to use information about what works to drive decision-making. This engagement of important staff has continued with the implementation of the Foundations for Evidence-based Policymaking Act (Evidence Act) where the Evidence Leadership Group, ED Data Governance Board, the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development’s Office of the Chief Data Officer and Grants Policy Office, Office of Evidence-Based Practices and State and Grantee Relations, the Institute for Education Sciences (IES), and other units leading the Department’s Evidence Act implementation.

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has been a consistent leader in taking a strategic approach to research and evaluation. Even before agency learning agendas were required by the Foundations for Evidence-based Policymaking Evidence Act (Evidence Act), HUD’s learning agenda, the Research Roadmap, linked the Department’s performance management, research, and evaluation activities. Now with the Evidence Act in place, HUD has issued an updated Research Roadmap, informed by an exemplary stakeholder engagement process that the Department has developed over the years to identify key research questions from the field.

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post

U.S. Department of Labor

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) was one of the first agencies to create the position of a Chief Evaluation Officer, paving the way for the Foundations for Evidence-based Policymaking Act (Evidence Act), which requires agencies to designate such a position in order to build a centralized capacity for research and evaluation. Several examples of the long-standing federal leadership is demonstrated by DOL’s evidence Clearinghouse for Labor Evaluation and Research (CLEAR), a model federal evidence database and DOL’s commitment to publishing public use data for researchers use. The data are generated from DOL-funded evaluations.

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post

Millennium Challenge Corporation

As a foreign assistance agency, accountability is core to the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s (MCC) organizational culture. This culture is reinforced by MCC’s evaluation leaders who oversee the agency’s performance, research, and evaluation activities. This commitment is further supported by the agency’s robust investment in research and evaluation: 2.3% of the agency’s budget, the highest relative spending on evaluation among the agencies featured in the 2020 Invest in What Works Federal Standard of Excellence. This allows MCC to closely monitor the effectiveness of the projects it funds.

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has demonstrated a commitment to evidence-based grantmaking. For example, Mental Health Block Grant (MHBG) included a 10% set aside for evidence-based interventions to address the needs of individuals with early serious mental illness, including psychotic disorders. As a result, SAMHSA scores well in Results for America’s Federal Standard of Excellence criteria on use of evidence in non-competitive grant programs (criteria 9). Congress should continue to maintain this 10% set aside in future appropriations, even though the agency has requested a 50% reduction in this set aside for FY21.

Working with decision-makers at all levels of government to harness the power of evidence and data to solve the world’s greatest challenges.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store