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Philanthropic Leaders Launch New Data and Evidence Initiatives to Advance What Works

Data-driven, evidence-based policy can be a game changer for people and communities in need. When we know what works best and act on it, we achieve better results – increase reading levels, decrease homelessness, help more working families join the middle class – while making smarter use of taxpayer dollars.

The Obama administration has doubled down on efforts to advance the use of rigorous evidence to drive smart policy decisions and to scale what works. Our social innovation agenda involves a two-step approach: using data and evidence to identify solutions that work better and then, once we’ve found measurably better solutions, replicating and scaling what works. 

Philanthropy has been an essential partner to government in surfacing the tools, programs and approaches that work, providing grant and risk capital that enables replication, and connecting communities with the talent and resources they need to make change. Philanthropy’s role will continue to be critical along a spectrum from helping make data open to the public and enabling local government to make data-driven decisions to using data to support rigorous evaluations of social programs. That’s why I’m excited about two new philanthropic initiatives launching this week:

  • Bloomberg Philanthropies recently announced What Works Cities, a major new initiative designed to enable mayors and city leaders to accelerate their use of data and evidence to improve the quality of life for residents. Former Mayor Bloomberg has brought together experts from Johns Hopkins, Harvard, the Sunlight Foundation, Results for America and the Behavioral Insights Center to work with cities directly with the goal of improving access to useable data, driving stronger performance by city governments, and learning how to evaluate impact in low-cost ways. 
  • The Laura and John Arnold Foundation is launching a new Evidence-Based Policy and Innovation Division that will support rigorous analysis of social programs across issues areas, build and share knowledge of what works, and aims to give policy makers tools to move the needle on our most pressing social challenges. 

We look forward to following these and similar philanthropic endeavors and to engaging with the foundation community, cities, states, and service providers to identify and help scale evidence and data-driven solutions that support communities in need and make more efficient use of public resources.