• June 2016
  • Vol. 17, No. 4

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Advancing Evidence Base in Family Self-Sufficiency and Stability Policy

Given finite Federal resources and the importance of accountability, there has been increasing movement toward building an evidence base to use in improving the effectiveness of human service programs. The Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) offers practical guidance for advancing evidence-based decision-making in a recently published toolkit that describes how to design experiments for evaluating the effectiveness of an intervention or program change in family policy.

The toolkit focuses on "opportunistic experiments (OEs)," or randomized control trials (RCTs) to study the effect of an initiative, program change, or new policy that an agency is planning to implement. This contrasts with traditional RCTs, which typically look at an intervention or program change developed specifically for a research study. OEs often rely on existing data to measure outcomes for existing program participants, making them more cost effective than most RCTs (which must recruit participants and collect new data). The toolkit looks at the various types of OEs, their characteristics, programs that are well-suited to experimentation, case study examples, and how to implement them.

Advancing Evidence-Based Decision-Making: A Toolkit on Recognizing and Conducting Opportunistic Experiments in the Family Self-Sufficiency and Stability Policy Area (OPRE Report #2015-97) was developed by Mathematica Policy Research (under contract to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, OPRE) as part of the OPRE-funded Advancing Welfare and Family Self-Sufficiency Research project. The toolkit can be accessed at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/opre/oe_learning_what_works_toolkit_final_2_b508.pdf (1 MB).

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