In partnership with The Council of State Governments (CSG) and The Policy Lab at Brown University, NCSL in 2021 launched the Governing for Results Network, a multi-state peer-learning network of state evidence leaders. This network brings leaders together to have candid conversations, share challenges and ideas, and learn from other states’ approaches.
The network seeks to build connections, foster peer-learning and networking, and share lessons learned and best practices through:
- Virtual and in-person convenings and webinars.
- A resource library and online communication platform.
- Customized state supports and assistance.
- Publications and resources to amplify the network’s accomplishments.
To foster connections, the network engages state legislators, budget directors and legislative and agency staff who advance the use of data and evidence across branches of government. In addition to their work with network states, NCSL, CSG and The Policy Lab are producing an array of resources available to policymakers and staff in all states and territories. These include sessions at NCSL and CSG events, policy briefs, and web resources.
The network engages state legislators, budget directors and legislative and agency staff from 11 states. From North Carolina’s Performance Management Academy and New Mexico’s LegisStat initiative to Colorado’s Evidence Continuum and Alabama’s Commission on the Evaluation of Services, Network states are taking innovative approaches to incorporating evidence and data into policy and budget decisions. As part of these efforts, the 11 member states are collaborating across branches and sectors, building evidence capacity, setting research agendas, and funding evaluation grants to help drive better results.
Results-Driven Approaches in Network States
Using evidence can help state governments effectively target resources, promote innovation, improve transparency and build and sustain a culture of continuous learning and improvement. To that end, network states have implemented cutting-edge strategies to incorporate research-backed and evidence-supported approaches into their budgetary and policymaking processes. What does this work look like in practice?
As described in a 2022 NCSL issue brief, network states are:
- Agreeing on terms used to define evidence. Some states (Colorado, Mississippi) have defined terms in legislation, while others (Minnesota, New York, North Carolina) have defined evidence terms through less formal approaches. For example, Minnesota Management and Budget’s “What is Evidence?” webpage defines evidence and qualifying evaluations, and links to the department’s evaluation policy.
- Building Consensus Across Branches of Government. To engage stakeholders and facilitate buy-in among legislative and executive branch stakeholders, some states, including Alabama and North Carolina, have established cross-branch offices or advisory groups to identify priority areas for evidence-based reforms and to evaluate the performance of state programs and investments.
- Committing Resources to Generating and Using Quality Data and Research. States have taken steps to improve access to reliable data, share data across state agencies and increase capacity to analyze and distill meaningful data for policymakers. Among these efforts, Tennessee established the Office of Evidence and Impact and Minnesota launched the Impact Evaluation Unit in 2019.
- Directing Resources to Programs, Policies and Practices That Are Backed by Research—and Encouraging Promising Ones to Build a Research Base. Several states have developed tiered grant programs (Colorado, New York and North Carolina), an evidence continuum (Colorado, Tennessee, and Minnesota) or other frameworks that give preference to programs with strong evidence while also providing an opportunity for new or untested programs to develop research that demonstrates their results.
- Embedding Evidence into State Budgeting Processes and Decisions. Network states have enacted policies that incorporate evidence and performance information into the budgeting process, updating budget templates to include evidence justifications, performance standards, and/or returns on investment for budget proposals (Colorado, Minnesota, Mississippi, Rhode Island, Utah).
- Fostering a Culture of Continued Learning. By clearly defining terms, engaging stakeholders, and embedding evidence into the policy and budget process, state leaders are taking steps to build a culture of evidence and continued learning. For example, Tennessee’s Office of Evidence and Impact was created to foster “a culture of data and evidence-based policymaking and budgeting.” Other state efforts focus on delivering evidence training for legislative and executive branch stakeholders or establishing offices that are charged with advancing the state’s research agenda (Alabama, New York, North Carolina).
Garnering Support Through Clear Communication and Messaging. States have taken a variety of steps, including the development of real-time dashboards and agency report cards, to ensure that research findings are accessible and meaningful to policymakers and address key policy objectives (Iowa, Minnesota, New Mexico).
Four Network working groups have convened to discuss key areas of interest:
- Funding competitive evaluation grants.
- Developing a performance management academy (PMA), training, and/or credentialing.
- Allocating ARPA funds for program evaluations and/or evaluation set-asides.
- Creating a dedicated office for advancing EBP and research agendas.