Giving Compass’ Take:
• This Third Sector Capital Partners post discusses evidence-based practices in the social sector and where there are flaws. As stated here, the problem isn’t evidence; the problem is how evidence is collected and used.
• The takeaway here is the need for more impact measurement with administrative data, especially for government-based programs. Being informed consumers of evidence will empower everyone.
In the recent discussion concerning evidence-based practices, many practitioners believe that the current approach to collecting evidence, validating findings, and replicating evidence-based programs (EBPs) has distorted the funding system for social services. Others argue that relaxing the focus on evidence-based practices will welcome a world where once again anecdotes and heuristics guide funding decisions.
At Third Sector, we believe there is another way forward: continuous impact measurement using administrative data. If the government made low-cost impact management an element of their program oversight, it could better hold providers accountable for quantifiable effectiveness while encouraging greater innovation and more impactful philanthropy.
The most recent attention directed towards evidence-based practices comes as a response to the decision by the Department of Health and Human Services to stop funding the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP). This conclusion was made following questions on the consistency and rigor of evidence collection within the NREPP system.
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Beyond the individual actors, however, there is a second, systemic concern. “Evidence-based” is being used as a barrier to competition. As long as the “evidence-based” moniker stays with the model, it gives the appearance of proven effectiveness, potentially without validation of impact within miles or years of where it’s being implemented. Evaluation and evidence matter, maybe more than ever. Research shows the powerful influence of community factors in program effectiveness, so adapting and measuring EBPs in different cultural contexts and communities is important, but difficult under the existing system.
The solution – to building the needed evidence, to holding providers accountable for creating impact, to encouraging innovation – is continuous impact measurement. With the insights derived from the government’s administrative data, evidence can go from serving as a snapshot to part of the continuous improvement process. New practices and older programs will be held to the same standard: improving the lives of those they serve.
Read the full article about reforming evidence-based policy for greater impact philanthropy by Brian Beachofski at Third Sector Capital Partners.
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