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MANAGEMENT UPDATE.

HOW DO YOU DEFINE EVIDENCE?

There are certain phrases that enter the public sector lexicon and become ubiquitous without ever being properly defined. Some years back, for example, when enthusiasm about “big data” was exploding, we embarked on an experiment and called a dozen or so smart people in state and local government to find out what they thought “big data” meant. While there was some broad consensus, by and large we emerged with six or seven disparate definitions. It was kind of a tower of high-tech Babel.


Over the last several years, the phrases “evidence-based” and “evidence-building” have become ubiquitous. Fortunately, Results for America, gathered insights from about 100 policymakers, researchers and community advocates to find ways to create strong definitions of these and other related terms, which were released in a February 7th report. These definitions are more than just a glossary, and according to a LinkedIn post they were designed to help government managers: 


  •  Consider the full body of evidence for programs, including all relevant studies about results or implementation.

  • Elevate information about why, how and for whom programs have worked in the past.

  • Examine how local context may affect implementation and results, including feedback from relevant stakeholders.

  • Incentivize ongoing evaluation and improvement.


Among the words and phrases which the report defines are: evidence-based program, evidence-building program, impact evidence, implementation evidence, impact evaluation, implantation evaluation, and informed rationale.



According to a Results for America blog post, “Investments in evidence-based programs are key to increasing the likelihood that a government will deliver positive results for residents but, on their own, are insufficient. Policymakers must also take care to ensure their decisions are designed to meet their particular community’s needs and that there are sufficient resources to invest in quality program implementation and ongoing evaluation for continuous improvement.


“This approach invites governments to select and invest in evidence-based programs in a new, more nuanced, and more participatory way, taking care to both attend to prior research and to the voices of those closest to the challenges they seek to address.”


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