Section
Effective Government
Effective Government

Harnessing data to improve lives

Poverty. Homelessness. Unemployment. At all levels of government, a growing number of forward-thinking officials are embracing a new way of addressing these and other pressing problems. They’re harnessing data and evidence to evaluate existing efforts, design more effective interventions, and create a culture of continuous learning and improvement. Instead of simply tracking metrics, officials are mining the data, gleaning insights, and using that information to help ensure that public programs actually make a difference. Our team is working to encourage the adoption of this approach, known as evidence-based policymaking.

We established a model for Policy Labs, innovative government-researcher partnerships focused on helping governments use rigorous scientific research to develop a deeper understanding of the issues in their communities and identify promising solutions. One such example is the Rhode Island Innovative Policy Lab (RIIPL), a partnership between the state of Rhode Island and Brown University. At RIIPL, researchers built a secure and comprehensive repository of state data that they can tap into when government officials want to know how policies and programs affect residents. The researchers can then produce timely, relevant reports for those officials to use when crafting and pursuing a policy agenda. Together, policymakers and researchers engage in a cycle of learning about what works and how to improve.

Since RIIPL launched, we have funded new labs in a number of cities and states. In July, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the creation of The Lab @ DC. One of its signature projects is a randomized controlled trial (RCT) on the effects of the police department’s body-worn camera program. The study, which included more than 2,200 officers, is one of the largest RCTs of body-worn cameras to date. Researchers examined how the cameras relate to policing, including use of force, civilian complaints, and judicial outcomes. In 2017, our grant funding also supported the creation of Policy Labs in California, Colorado, and Georgia.


Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado) announces the launch of the Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab during a press conference in June. The lab, which is housed at the University of Denver, is part of the Hickenlooper Administration’s ongoing effort to make the Colorado state government more effective and efficient.