State and local governments across the country are working to make meaningful improvements in people’s lives by addressing pressing challenges such as homelessness, recidivism, failing schools, and poverty. There are a number of programs designed to target these issues. However, many of these well-intentioned efforts have failed to produce adequate improvements. In an effort to move the needle on these problems and to ensure that limited tax dollars are spent wisely, some forward-thinking governments have developed strategic partnerships with research institutions through the creation of policy labs.
In a policy lab, government officials collaborate with experienced researchers to study problems, learn about the effectiveness of existing programs, and test new approaches. Programs that are shown to be effective can be replicated and scaled, while those that do not deliver the hoped-for effects can be improved or replaced. Governments then commit to a process of continual evaluation and learning in order to build the evidence base for social interventions.
LJAF provides funding for the Rhode Island Innovative Policy Lab, the Dallas Education Research Consortium, the Houston Education Research Consortium, the Education Research Alliance, and several other labs.