July 10, 2018 Press Releases

Results for America Releases First Annual Invest in What Works State Standard of Excellence

New Standard of Excellence Highlights How States Are Using Data and Evidence to Improve Results for Residents – and Offers a Roadmap for Others to Follow

Washington, D.C. – At an event today hosted by the National Governors Association (NGA) at the Hall of States, Results for America released the 2018 Invest in What Works State Standard of Excellence – a national standard for how state governments can consistently and effectively use data and evidence to achieve better results for their residents.

The new State Standard of Excellence showcases 88 leading and promising practices, policies, programs, and systems – developed by governors and other state leaders across 30 states – to use data, evidence and evaluation to improve efficiency and outcomes.

“Across the country, a growing number of governors and state agency leaders are harnessing the power of evidence and data to address their toughest challenges,” said Michele Jolin, CEO and Co-Founder of Results for America. “The new Invest in What Works State Standard of Excellence serves as a ‘North Star,’ highlighting what states can do – and in many cases, are already doing – to use data and evidence to improve outcomes for residents.”

Results for America identified five states that are leading the way with their data-driven and evidence-based examples: ColoradoMinnesotaOregonTennessee, and Washington. These states have made significant strides towards creating a statewide ecosystem for using data and evidence as decision making tools to achieve better outcomes.

“Washington state has a great history of using data and evidence to inform policy and services that deliver better results for Washingtonians,” Washington Governor Jay Inslee said. “We’re honored to join with four other states in being recognized by Results for America for our strategic use of data and evidence, and look forward to strengthening our efforts alongside our state partners.”

“Coloradans want to make sure state government provides the most efficient and effective services possible,” said Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. “We use data to drive decision making and deliver results because that is what Coloradans expect and deserve. We appreciate the recognition from Results for America as it shows our efforts are making a difference.”

“In Oregon, we develop policy based on objective research and data, because that is what our most vulnerable citizens deserve from their elected officials,” Oregon Governor Kate Brown said. “Facts should not be a political debate. Rather, the use of evidence-based policy gives lawmakers the opportunity to put their differences aside and work towards common goals for our state.”

“My father said that, in business, ‘You get what you inspect, not what you expect.’ That is also true in government.  That is why our Administration is committed to making smart policy decisions based upon solid evidence, accurate data, and advanced science,” Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton said. “With informed decision-making and strong financial management, we have made state government work better for the people of Minnesota.”

“On our first day in office, we challenged ourselves to compete against the very best. We set out to create a more efficient and effective government and to be the very best stewards of the people’s money,” Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam said. “Results for America’s Invest in What Works State Standard of Excellence highlights the important role that evidence and data play in improving results for Tennessee and other states. Not only have we transformed into a state that can compete, but we have created the kind of momentum it takes to actually lead. We are thrilled that Tennessee is being recognized for its achievements.”

“Results for America’s new State Standard of Excellence showcases a variety of examples of how states are using data-driven, evidence-based approaches to inform decision-making – efforts often spearheaded and overseen by governors’ budget offices,” said John Hicks, Executive Director of the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO). “This new resource will help facilitate knowledge-sharing as more states move towards increasing their use of data and evidence.”

You can read more about these leading and promising data-driven and evidence-based examples here and at our new Invest in What Works State Standard of Excellence website.

Results for America identified these examples across 15 criteria: Strategic Goals, Performance Management/Continuous Improvement, Data Leadership, Data Policies/Agreements, Data Use, Evaluation Leadership, Evaluation Policies, Evaluation Resources, Outcome Data, Evidence Definition and Program Inventory, Cost-Benefit Analysis, Use of Evidence in Grant Programs, Innovation, Contracting for Outcomes, and Repurpose for Results.

Among our key findings:

  • Significant numbers of states are using performance management systems (12 states), linking data across programs and agencies to improve results (10 states), conducting cost-benefit analysis to quantify outcomes (10 states), and defining evidence and conducting inventories of evidence-based programs (10 states).

  • A growing number of states have data-sharing policies and agreements (7 states), are implementing innovative new models to improve outcomes (7 states), are reporting outcome data during their budget process (6 states), and requiring that a portion of grant funds be spent on evidence-based programs (6 states).

  • Fewer states have designated chief data officers with budget and policy authority (5 states), set statewide strategic goals (4 states), established evaluation policies (4 states), contracted for outcomes (3 states), hired senior leaders with the authority, staff and budget to evaluate programs (2 states) and repurposed funds away from programs that consistently fail to deliver results (2 states). No states were identified as investing at least 1 percent of program funds in evaluations.

The analysis is based on data provided under license by the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative¹ – which was used to inform its 2017 report on states’ engagement in evidence-based policymaking – as well as input from more than 90 current and former state government officials and experts.

The purpose of the 2018 Invest in What Works State Standard of Excellence is to inform policymakers and the public about state governments’ use of data, evidence, and evaluation to invest taxpayer dollars in what works.² By identifying specific efforts currently underway in state governments, Results for America hopes to facilitate the broader adoption of evidence-based policymaking in state governments across the country.

Results for America has previously developed standards of excellence for the following levels of government:

  • Federal Government: Results for America’s 2017 Federal Invest in What Works Index highlights the extent to which 8 federal agencies have built the infrastructure necessary to be able to use data and evidence when making budget, policy, and management decisions; these agencies oversaw more than $220 billion in federal investments in FY17.

  • Local Government: Results for America leads Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities Certification which assesses how well local governments incorporate data and evidence in their decision-making. The inaugural group of 9 certified cities was announced in January 2018.

Results for America is also developing a School District Standard of Excellence.

¹The views expressed in the 2018 Invest in What Works State Standard of Excellence are those of Results for America and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Pew Charitable Trusts or the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

²To share your feedback or additional examples of data-driven state innovation, email RFA ([email protected]) or tweet at @Results4America with the hashtags #InvestInWhatWorks and #StateStandard.

Contact: Zachary Coile
[email protected]



Results for America Statement on Evidence Wins in Government Funding Bill