On February 9, Laura Arnold delivered a TEDx Pennsylvania Avenue talk in Washington that called for policymakers and philanthropists to make decisions based on rigorous research rather than anecdote, ideology, or personal experience. Here is an excerpt from Laura’s prepared remarks:
We need more discriminating standards for what does and doesn’t work. We should demand this before we spend government or philanthropic dollars.
How do we do that? I have some ideas.
First, we need more randomized controlled trials to figure out what works. Those of us who work for or with governments can steer discussions and funding toward randomized trials.
Second, governments need to follow the evidence in deciding what to fund. That includes redirecting funding from things that have been done for a long time but don’t work to programs with evidence of success. We can all contribute to this culture shift.
And third, we need better data. We can encourage data sharing, create usable and interactive data systems so that we don’t spend time and money trying to harmonize datasets that don’t talk to each other. And we can foster collaborations among states, nonprofits, and government agencies to try to get this right. …
If we are going to solve problems—if we are really going to improve people’s lives on a large scale—we need good data and research. Because the policy ideas that are truly worth spreading are those that actually work.