What Works in Federal Policy
April 2021
Federal Standard of Excellence Blog Series

Each month, this newsletter draws insights and analysis from Results for America's 2020 Invest in What Works Federal Standard of Excellence. This month's blog spotlight is on Criteria 3: Resources.

The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 (Evidence Act) incentivizes building evaluation capacities in the federal government; however, the law did not come with funding attached for implementation, leaving agencies to locate or redistribute resources to fully implement the Act, including its evaluation components. The resources criteria (criteria 3) in Results for America’s Invest in What Works Federal Standards of Excellence (Federal Standard of Excellence) helps agencies to quantify their evaluation related spending. Criteria 3, which quantifies current spending as well as changes from previous years, allows agencies to track their evaluation spending over time and provides a snapshot of whether investments have increased to meet the additional requirements created by the Evidence Act.

Read our analysis and insights in our new blog series on Medium!
Evidence and Data in the News

Results for America CEO and Co-Founder Michele Jolin and Robert Gordon, former Director of Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services, share how state and local leaders looking to spend federal relief funds can avoid the “peanut butter spread” problem - i.e. giving everyone something, yet falling short of creating lasting change. They suggest 5 principles for how state and local governments can wisely invest the more than $450 billion they will receive as part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

The Data Coalition sent a letter to OMB about the “central role of data and evidence in decision-making.” Among data recommendations, the letter recommends that the Biden Administration incorporate funding for data infrastructure as part of the 2022 fiscal budget proposal and have the Federal Chief Statistician chair the Federal Advisory Committee on Data for Evidence Building.

The 2021 Federal Data Strategy requires agency Chief Data Officers (CDOs) to make important decisions about data sharing processes, such as data security, legacy technology systems, and data science skills within agencies. As these steps forward are taken under the Federal Data Strategy 2021 Action Plan, CDOs have many concerns to contend with such as data privacy and volume issues.

The Social Security Administration is requesting feedback on its draft learning agenda to “inform important priorities for our agency, including those that are related to the president’s broader priorities” aligned with The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act. The agency is requesting feedback by May 20
Evidence-Based Policy Ideas and Opportunities

Urban Institute and The Pew Charitable Trusts: Using Evidence for Impact: Data, Research and Evaluation
The Urban Institute has partnered with The Pew Charitable Trusts to host a webinar on May 27 discussing how federal and state agencies and other organizations can use evidence when making decisions.

Nick Hart, President of the Data Foundation, discusses data as an infrastructure issue and its importance for President Biden’s infrastructure plan, the American Jobs Act.

IBM Center for Business of Government: Federal Grants Management: Improving Outcomes
The IBM Center for Business of Government has released a new publication on improving operational outcomes for grant programs. Written by Results for America Federal Advisory Committee member Shelley Metzenbaum, the guide focuses on helping grantees find, build and use evidence in order to improve outcomes, transparency and accountability. 

Administration for Children and Families (HHS) Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation: Embracing Learning Opportunities from COVID-19
The Administration for Children and Families' Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation has developed three over-arching research questions to evaluate critical lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic. They focus on improving: service and delivery, reach of service, and technical assistance for evidence building and program improvement.

J-PAL North America: Evaluating Social Programs Course
Applications are open for J-PAL/MIT Evaluating Social Programs Course. Held live over Zoom, this four-day training is open to anyone with an interest in incorporating randomized control trials into their work. Applications close on May 10.
Federal Government Updates
American Jobs Plan
On March 31, President Biden released the American Jobs Plan designed to rebuild American infrastructure.  Last evening, during his speech to Congress, the President also released the broad outlines of the American Families Plan.

Job Opportunity: OPM Chief Data Officer 
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is hiring a Chief Data Officer to oversee data efforts for the federal government's human resources agency. OPM is looking for a candidate that “champions a culture of data and evidence-based decision making.” The application deadline is May 13. 

Latest from Results for America
On March 11, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan aimed at helping communities recover from the negative consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and revitalizing the U.S. economy. Results for America has compiled fact sheets on some of the major provisions of the ARP and related guidance from federal agencies. 

Results for America Conversations: “Why Data-Driven Government Matters”
On April 20, Results for America hosted the first in the year-long series of Results for America ConversationsBest-selling author Michael Lewis, author of The Fifth Risk, which examines the presidential transition, was interviewed by Jim Shelton, the Chief Investment and Impact Officer at Blue Meridian Partners about "Why Data-Driven Government Matters." 

This recently released report outlines how PK-12 leaders can use data, evidence, and evaluation to address our most pressing education challenges including: COVID-19 recovery, racial inequity, and increasing economic mobility. 

Edited by former Results for America Chief Economist Ben Harris and Sharon Block of Harvard Law School - who both recently joined the Biden Administration - the book highlights how decades of falling competition in the U.S. labor market have weakened wage growth and diminished job quality for America's workers. The book - which includes chapters from former Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, RFA's Kate Tromble and Jed Herrmann, and others - offers a playbook of reforms that could lead to higher wages, safer workplaces, and greater economic mobility. 

Zachary Markovits, Vice President of Local Government and Managing Director of What Works Cities, shares what five things mayors and other local government leaders should focus on that would help to both address the crisis at hand and boldly create the future they want to see.