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Outcomes-Focused Technical Assistance: Enabling Greater Impact through Data and Evidence

The Administration introduces a new framing that seeks to bring into sharper focus the potential to deploy TA resources in a way that service providers use data.
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Federal, philanthropic, private and non-profit leaders convene for the first-ever meeting on Outcomes-Focused TA

We don't have enough money or time or resources to invest in things that don't work, so we've got to be pretty hard-headed about saying if something is not working, let’s stop doing it.  Let’s do things that work.  And we shouldn’t care whether it was a Democratic program or a Republican program, or a faith-based program or -- if it works, we should support it.  If it doesn’t, we shouldn’t.”  --President Obama, February 27, 2014

From education and workforce training to child welfare and public health, government and philanthropy advance opportunity and address pressing social challenges by providing or funding services.  The core purpose of these efforts is to achieve better outcomes for individuals and communities.  

New innovations in the use of data and evidence can help service providers achieve measurably better outcomes.  While data and evidence can drive transformative impact for those most in need, they are rarely used to their potential because of a lack of capacity and access among service providers.  

How do we accelerate adoption of these tools that can help service providers achieve their missions and better serve those in need?  One promising opportunity is for government and philanthropy to more intentionally and frequently direct considerable technical assistance (TA) resources to help service providers use data and evidence to achieve better outcomes.

At the White House, we recently convened Federal, philanthropic, private and non-profit providers and funders of TA to discuss how TA resources can be deployed to help government and nonprofit service providers focus on and achieve better outcomes.  At the event, we introduced the concept of “Outcomes-Focused Technical Assistance”, developed with the engagement and feedback of many thought leaders. 

Below is the simple Outcomes-Focused TA concept summary:

Technical Assistance

Technical assistance (TA) is offered in a variety of ways on a wide range of topics. It can help build the capacity of service-providing organizations to achieve positive outcomes. Government and philanthropy invest significantly in TA to inform and support service delivery, and with good reason. Because TA can influence the way in which service delivery is deployed, it presents a high-leverage opportunity to drive better outcomes on a large scale and to make more efficient use of public and philanthropic resources.

Data and Evidence

Data and evidence are important tools that can help government and service providers address many of society's most pressing challenges by helping deploy resources toward better, more effective services. However, the tools of data and evidence are valuable only to the extent they are made available and used to inform action.

Government and philanthropy have made strides to collect and make public evidence of what works to enable the implementation of evidence-based practices in local communities. They have also taken new steps to make data, including administrative data (the data government agencies routinely collect), available for informing smarter service delivery. 

Outcomes-Focused TA

The Outcomes-Focused TA concept seeks to bring into sharper focus the potential to deploy TA resources to help service providers use data and evidence to achieve measurably better results. In particular, there are increasing opportunities for TA resources to help service providers:

  1. Identify the most important outcomes that service providers are trying to achieve and measure them.
  2. Implement evidence-based practices most likely to achieve target outcomes in local communities by meeting service providers where they are and help them adapt evidence-based programming to their current efforts. 
  3. Use data to inform service delivery by identifying and targeting populations in need of services, as well as to assess real-time outcomes with the objective of enabling service providers to learn, course correct where necessary, and continuously improve.

At the Office of Social Innovation, our mission is to advance opportunity, equality and justice by helping create a more outcomes-focused social sector and public sector.  We hope the simple notion of Outcomes-Focused TA encourages more intentional use of TA to advance the uptake of evidence and data tools and that the framing helps enable an outcomes-mindset in government and philanthropy. Most important, we hope that the provision of Outcomes-Focused TA will help accelerate implementation of better, more effective solutions for people and communities in need.