March 25, 2015Policy Report

A 2016 Policy Playbook “Invest in What Works: How to Solve Our Nation’s Great Challenges”

Federal/ 2015/



We have more information than ever about what works to address our nation’s great social challenges. Technological advances, research breakthroughs, and the work of bold social entrepreneurs and visionary nonprofit leaders point the way to solutions. Progress is within our reach. Yet too often, governments continue to do what they have always done without using evidence about what works, and the results are disappointingly the same.

To dramatically expand opportunity in America, the next president must harness the growing body of data and evidence to improve the lives of all young people, their families, and their communities. Americans face real obstacles to economic mobility. The next president has a powerful opportunity to remove those obstacles, measurably improve individual lives, and make large-scale progress on our nation’s great challenges.

On day one, the next president should announce that improving people’s lives through data and evidence will be the centerpiece of his or her domestic policy agenda. Specifically, this means that with every existing program and each new policy proposal, the president would commit to:

  1. Building more evidence so that government decisions can be based on increasingly sophisticated knowledge, including clarifying evidence to determine what works, for whom, and in what situations.
  2. Investing federal dollars based on evidence and data, steering public dollars toward programs that improve outcomes, and increasing investments where evidence of effectiveness is clear.
  3. Redirecting public resources away from interventions that consistently fail to achieve desired results.

The time is right for government to make the shift toward a more evidence-based approach. This agenda builds on progress made by past presidents. However, investing in what works is also a critical new addition and expansion, making data and evidence core to decision making and an essential part of the machinery of how government operates.

Given the importance of ensuring that tax dollars are used as effectively and efficiently as possible and the imperative to make progress on our nation’s great challenges, public funds—at all levels of government—must be invested in what works. The result will be better economic and social outcomes for all Americans, including those most in need.