Leveraging Evaluation and Evidence for Equitable Recovery

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What is LEVER?

State and local governments are working to build resilience in their communities in the face of the economic and public health effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Federal funds—such as the $350 billion available from the American Rescue Plan State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) and the $1.2 trillion available from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL)—are catalyzing a once-in-a-generation opportunity for state and local governments. From local rental assistance, state-wide tutoring programs, to sector-based job training, governments have a historic opportunity to fund evidence-based approaches to advance economic mobility and racial equity.

This opportunity also sparks a chance to meaningfully understand the impacts of promising new programs and policies in order to bring the most effective solutions to scale. Through a new program, Leveraging Evaluation and Evidence for Equitable Recovery (LEVER), Results for America and J-PAL North America are committed to equipping state and local governments with the resources needed to create a culture of evidence and data use in decision-making, ensuring recovery programs are best-positioned to improve lives.

Why Now?

The need for this program was realized through the creation of Results for America’s American Rescue Plan Data & Evidence Dashboard. Results for America partnered with Mathematica to develop its dashboard – based on an analysis of 200 (out of 389 total) Recovery Plan Performance Reports (Recovery Reports), covering over 8,300 projects from all 50 states, 83 counties, and 67 cities – that provides a snapshot of how state and local governments are investing their $350 billion ARP State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF), as well as how policymakers are implementing five key data and evidence practices, articulated in guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department, to maximize the impact of their ARP SLFRF investments.

Given the $116 billion remaining unobligated and $144.7 billion yet to be expended as of January 2023, we see an opportunity to maximize the use of data, evidence and evaluation driven decision-making. It is our hope that, between the federally funded models featured in the dashboard and the programming offered through LEVER, we will encourage effective state and local government spending for the remaining ARP funds, as well as for investments made under the $1.2 trillion IIJA (also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law) and the $750 billion Inflation Reduction Act – and ultimately make “what works” the way government at all levels does business moving forward.

Current Program Offerings

LEVER Training Sprint: Policies & Practices to Sustain Equitable Recovery

State and local leaders are invited to submit an application for a new offering from LEVER– our Policies & Practices to Sustain Equitable Recovery Training Sprint. Through this program participants will develop their own policy for how evidence, evaluation, and equity are prioritized in their jurisdiction and build out a decision making framework that makes their policy actionable. The 10 week sprint will be delivered through weekly virtual meetings that will include presentations from leading national experts, facilitated group discussions, and opportunities for break out sessions and peer-to-peer learning. Participants will leave this training sprint ready to move forward with an evaluation policy that can sustain evidence-driven decision making for years to come. Application submission for the 2023 LEVER Training Sprint has closed. Sign up here to be notified about the 2024 training sprint and other LEVER opportunities.

Applications will be evaluated based on the following three criteria:

  • Demonstrated commitment to embedding evidence, evaluation, and equity into decision making processes;
  • Alignment, support, and engagement of an Executive Sponsor(s);
  • Project director and project team’s ability to influence the policy process

Take a look at the webpage for more information on the eligibility criteria and details on the opportunity. To learn more, you can sign up for office hours to discuss how this opportunity might suit your needs.

LEVER Evaluation Incubator

Through the LEVER Evaluation Incubator, governments interested in evaluating programs enabled by Covid-19 recovery funding will access training, technical assistance, flexible funding, and connections to expert researchers within J-PAL North America’s network to develop evaluations. In turn, decision-makers can use this evidence to enhance, expand, or guide the development of effective policies and programs.

Selected partners may receive:

  • Up to four months of technical support from J-PAL North America staff to design a randomized evaluation.
  • Flexible project development funding of up to $50,000 to support the design of an evaluation.
  • Training on randomized evaluation.
  • Connections with J-PAL’s network of leading academic researchers, including a matchmaking convening. While we cannot guarantee a successful, long-term collaboration, J-PAL staff will make an ongoing effort to provide introductions to researchers in J-PAL’s academic network.

J-PAL North America hosted a webinar for prospective applicants. Watch the recording to learn more about the LEVER Evaluation Incubator and apply today! Questions can be directed to Mera Cronbaugh at [email protected].

Why it Matters

State and local government leaders need to evaluate their investments of these federal funds to ensure taxpayer dollars are directed toward what works. Building a culture of evidence-based decision-making is crucial to delivering results for residents and restoring faith in government.

To learn more about all of the LEVER programming visit the project webpage here. If you have any questions about LEVER, reach out to Chelsea Powell at [email protected].

LEVER Resources

In addition to available programming, state and local governments are encouraged to take advantage of our publicly available LEVER resources and tools to support their evidence and evaluation journey. We will continue to publish and share these resources as they become available.

Starting Your Evidence and Evaluation Journey: This two-part workshop series outlined our evidence and evaluation framework as well as self-assessment tools for local and state governments.

  • Workshop Recordings
  • Worksheets
    • Building Your Team
      • Building internal buy-in and capacity for evidence-based decision-making and evaluation is key to creating a sustainable data culture in your jurisdiction. This tool will guide you through stakeholder management, including leveraging supporters and resolving the reservations of your opposition.
    • Building a Strong Foundation
      • Wherever your government currently stands in its journey to embedding evidence-based decision-making into its processes, this assessment tool will help you to identify what skills you already have in your government and where you need to build more, in order to achieve a sustainable culture of evidence and evaluation.
    • Evaluation Policy Practices Checklist