Newly Released 2021 Federal Invest in What Works Standard of Excellence Recognizes Nine Federal Agencies
WASHINGTON, DC – At an event today with senior White House, Congressional, and federal agency leaders, Results for America released the 2021 Invest in What Works Federal Standard of Excellence, which highlights the progress that nine leading federal agencies have made in implementing the Evidence Act and using evidence and data to improve the impact of federal investments.
At the event, Acting White Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young praised federal agencies for putting evidence and data at the center of their efforts to help drive an equitable recovery. “We have to have one set of facts—and that’s what data and evidence and science bring us,” Young said. “We need to bring that to the construct of government.”
The 2021 Invest in What Works Federal Standard of Excellence assesses how nine federal agencies – which oversaw more than $286 billion in federal funds this year – are building the infrastructure necessary to use evidence and data in their budget, policy, and management decisions. Based on a review of each agency’s progress, Results for America recognized:
- Three agencies as Gold Certified: the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the U.S. Department of Education;
- Two agencies as Silver Certified: the Administration for Children and Families, and AmeriCorps;
- Four agencies as Bronze Certified: the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Administration for Community Living, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
“We are encouraged by these agencies’ efforts to use evidence and data to advance economic mobility and close racial gaps,” said Michele Jolin, CEO and Co-Founder of Results for America. “By building a culture of data-driven decision-making, they are accelerating the federal government’s ability to invest in what works and deliver better results for the American people.”
Highlights of Progress Across the Nine Agencies
- Major strides in investing in what works: In 2013, the Federal Standard of Excellence recognized two federal agencies for prioritizing and defining evidence in five competitive and noncompetitive grant programs (which allocated $3.2 billion). This year we are recognizing nine federal agencies for prioritizing and defining evidence in 33 competitive and noncompetitive grant programs (which allocated $64.3 billion).
- Leadership at all 9 agencies: All nine agencies designated Evidence Act leaders who are helping coordinate agency-wide data, evidence, and evaluation activities.
- 4 agencies meeting the threshold for investing in evidence-building: In FY21, four of the nine agencies invested at least 1% of their budgets in research and evaluation activities; MCC’s FY21 investment exceeded 2%.
- 2022 should see more progress: The Biden-Harris Administration has accelerated the evidence-driven efforts of federal agencies through executive actions, Evidence Act guidance, and American Rescue Plan Act guidance to help state and local governments maximize the impact of their recovery funds.
Highlights of Progress at Each Agency
- Administration for Children and Families (ACF within HHS) helped build the capacity of grantees to support culturally responsive evaluation through centers and toolkits, and is developing a new African American Children and Families Research Center to support research on the needs of African American populations served by ACF.
- Administration for Community Living (ACL within HHS) expanded its research and evaluation team at the Office of Performance and Evaluation, and produced research to address COVID-related challenges such as communications barriers between patients who are deaf or hard of hearing and their health care providers due to mask usage.
- AmeriCorps hired a chief data officer to support Evidence Act implementation, and increased its investment in grantees with strong or moderate evidence to 68% in FY21 competitive grant dollars, a 17 percent increase from FY20.
- Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is expanding access to all its evaluations, research, publicly available datasets, and Evaluation Briefs through a new user-friendly Evidence Platform later this year, and is seeking to generate more evidence around inclusion and gender as part of its learning agenda.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration‘s (SAMHSA within HHS) Office of Behavioral Health Equity requires grantees submit Disparity Impact Statements (DIS) to ensure SAMHSA programs are delivered through an equitable access, use, and outcomes framework.
- U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) published an FY22 Annual Evaluation Plan outlining its significant evaluations, and is leveraging disaggregated data to analyze and respond to racial, ethnic, and other equity disparities.
- U.S. Department of Education (ED) expanded its data staff to support its chief data officer and Evidence Leadership Group (ELG), produced a series of evidence-based COVID-19 resources, and shared disaggregated data to help inform efforts to support students with disabilities, English Learners, students experiencing homelessness, and others during the pandemic.
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has coordinated its performance management, research, and learning activities through its Annual Performance Plan and Research Roadmap, helped states and localities build their evidence capacity, and provided grantees resources to better understand and address racial disparities.
- U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) hired and appointed a chief innovation officer, a position left unfilled during the last administration, and three of its five largest competitive grants require grantees to provide information about their past performance and use of evidence-informed strategies in their grant applications.
Highlights of Areas Where More Progress Is Needed
- Federal agencies should use their full authority to define and prioritize evidence in all of their competitive grant programs.
- Congress, the White House, and federal agencies should work together to define and prioritize evidence in all of their non-competitive grant programs.
- Congress, the White House, and federal agencies should work together to ensure that at least 1% of agency program funds are invested in evidence-building efforts.
WATCH: Acting White House OMB Director Shalanda Young, House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro, and Senior Federal Agency Leaders Discuss the 2021 Federal Standard of Excellenc
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