November 15, 2023 Press Releases

In Red States and Blue States, More Leaders Are Investing in What Works

Results for America’s 2023 Invest in What Works State Standard of Excellence Highlights Advances in Evidence-based Grantmaking, Budgeting, Direct Services and More

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, at a virtual event co-hosted by the National Governors Association, Results for America released its 2023 Invest in What Works State Standard of Excellence, showcasing 194 efforts across 46 states – led by Governors, state legislators, and state agency leaders of both parties – to build and use evidence and data to improve residents’ lives.

This year’s State Standard of Excellence recognizes five Leading States — Colorado, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oregon and Tennessee — and five Honorable Mention States — California, Connecticut, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Utah — for their exemplary building and use of evidence and data to guide decision-making and invest taxpayer dollars in what works.

“In red states and blue states, state governments are harnessing the power of evidence and data to deliver better results,” said Michele Jolin, CEO and Co-Founder of Results for America. “Governors, state legislators and state agency leaders are using the key levers of power – grantmaking, budgeting and direct services – to expand evidence-based solutions and accelerate economic mobility. By building more efficient and effective governments, they are helping restore the public’s faith in government’s ability to tackle our most urgent challenges.”

“America’s Governors are prioritizing the use of evidence to invest in improving outcomes for their residents” said Ryan Martin, Deputy Director of the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices. “We celebrate Governors as they shift dollars to what works, and are proud to work with Results for America to showcase the gubernatorial leadership shown in the 2023 Invest in What Works State Standard of Excellence.”

Other highlights from this year’s State Standard of Excellence include:

  • Evidence-Driven Grantmaking: 33 states have defined and prioritized evidence of effectiveness in at least one grant program since 2020. In total, there are 70 programs representing $1.67 billion in funding. Forty-eight percent of these programs are in states led by Republican governors and 52% are in states led by Democratic governors. The top three states with the largest grant allocations are Michigan, Tennessee, and California, and the top three with the most programs are Texas, California, and Tennessee.
  • Evidence-Driven Direct Services: 13 states reported having agencies that invest in evidence-based direct services. Two states with different partisan make-ups – Tennessee and Minnesota – stand out for investing over $1 billion each in evidence-based human and social services.
  • Evidence-Driven Budgeting: 10 states embed evidence in their budget process. Five of these states are also using language within their budget documents that promotes investment in improved outcomes. Ohio is the most recent state to require agencies to demonstrate a program’s effectiveness when requesting funds for new or expanding programs.
  • Evaluation Investments: 10 state agencies in 7 states have invested at least 1% of their program funds in evaluations and evidence building. Some of the investments states are making include at least $11.7 million in California, $1.7 million in Minnesota, $1 million in North Carolina, $200,000 in New Jersey, $1.5 million in Pennsylvania, and $1.5 million in Tennessee. The North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management has directed some of the state’s investment in evaluations and evidence building into an Evaluation Fund to support research partnerships that inform policy and program decisions. In 2022, it awarded $1 million in grants to eight high-impact research projects on topics including teacher and student outcomes, workforce development, juvenile recidivism, behavioral health and social service programs, and domestic violence.
  • Community Participation: 13 states have efforts that actively engage residents in building and implementing policies and programs. Pennsylvania is leading the way with Governor’s Commissions on African American Affairs, Asian American and Pacific Islander Affairs, Latino Affairs, LGBTQ Affairs, Women, and Next Generation Engagement, with leading and respected executive directors and more than 120 commissioners appointed by the Governor, helping in making state government accountable and responsive to the needs of historically underserved communities. Additionally, Utah actively seeks public input as part of the governor’s vision to give Utah’s customers first-in-class customer service.

“Our Administration is making data, evidence and performance management key elements of how we do our job for our fellow Coloradans – making Colorado safer, healthier, lowering costs, helping businesses grow – all while being the best stewards of taxpayer dollars,” Colorado Governor Jared Polis said.

“Cultivating a culture of innovation and evidence-based decision making has empowered us to maximize the impact of taxpayer dollars. This synergy enables us to address the state’s most pressing challenges head on, creating bold solutions that improve the lives of all Utahns,” Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said. “We’re proud to be recognized, and we remain committed to continually enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of state government for the benefit of our residents.”

“I’m grateful that we’ve again earned this honor,” said North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper. “We’re going to continue to use evidence-based policy to improve decision making and maximize the investment of taxpayers.”

“Tennessee is leading the nation with data-driven decisions to secure economic and educational opportunity for all,” Tennessee Governor Bill Lee said. “This honor from Results for America speaks our Office of Evidence and Impact’s work to ensure state dollars are stewarded responsibly and effectively to serve Tennesseans well.”

“Connecticut is increasingly harnessing the power of data to tell us what works to improve the lives of everyone who lives and does business in our state,” said Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont. “We are putting in place the people and the policies to make sure we can improve access to data, build agency capacity and make better decisions, informed by data.”

“[New Mexico’s recognition in the 2023 State Standard of Excellence] proves that quality people and hard work can make change and make government function. So I am proud of our staff and what we have achieved,” said Chair George Muñoz, New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee

“New Mexico has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest wisely in ways that will pay dividends for years to come,” said New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee Vice-Chair Nathan Small. “We’re proud to be recognized for our strategic, results-focused budgeting process, which leverages federal funds and will generate future dollars to provide impactful results for our communities.”

Since its launch in 2018, Results for America’s State Standard of Excellence has offered states a “North Star” to benchmark their existing data and evidence capacity, as well as a roadmap for how they can accelerate their progress.

To see more examples of how states are using data and evidence to invest in what works and improve residents’ lives, take a look at the state-by-state results in the 2023 Invest in What Works State Standard of Excellence.

To reach out directly with any questions, please contact Zachary Coile at [email protected].



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