What Works Toolkit

A State and Local Government Policymaker’s Guide to Improving Human Services Contracting and Outcomes

Executive Summary

This Toolkit provides a framework for understanding the practices necessary to move state and local government agencies and human services providers from compliance-focused to outcomes-focused contracting. The Toolkit provides five detailed recommendations to accomplish this shift, including links to specific tools and templates for interested governments as well as examples of leading practices in states, cities, and counties that have successfully implemented these recommendations.

Taken together, the recommendations, tools, and leading practices identified in this Toolkit can help bring about significant change in human services contracting. When state and local governments and human services providers work together to implement accessible, collaborative, and outcomes-focused contracting, they can enhance positive results and better serve the young people, families, and communities who depend on them to provide the services they need to reach their fullest potential.

Recommendation #2:
Break Down Government Funding Silos
Recommendation #3:
Issue Clear Requests for Proposals that Focus on Outcomes and Preference Evidence
Recommendation #4:
Fund Outcomes and Build Evidence


State and local governments are in a position to meet the key social challenges of our time, including: income inequality, unemployment, homelessness, inadequate access to affordable housing, opioid abuse, and mass incarceration. While these are big challenges, if government agencies can make smarter use of public resources, they can scale solutions that work and make significant progress. Policymakers are increasingly turning to evidence-based solutions to get better results and lower costs.

The What Works Toolkit: A State and Local Government Policymaker’s Guide to Improving Human Services Contracting and Outcomes is designed to help state and local government agencies build on these trends to achieve better outcomes for residents by moving from compliance to outcomes-focused procurement.

To achieve these better outcomes, a cultural change is needed in the way that governments and human services providers interact. To that end, all five recommendations in this Toolkit are built on the idea that better results can be achieved when government and human services providers create a collaborative culture that is focused on achieving overarching outcomes through the use of evidence-based approaches. This work starts with government gathering feedback and collaboratively developing outcomes-focused goals (recommendation #1). When combined with a more holistic approach to contracting that breaks down government program and budget silos (recommendation #2), this collaboration can result in RFPs that are clear, evidence-based, and outcomes-focused (recommendation #3). Making sure this outcomes-focused approach is executed through contracts that build evidence (recommendation #4) and connected to feedback loops with strong performance monitoring systems (recommendation #5), creates a human services procurement system that is focused on delivering outcomes and continually improves to get better results. If implemented, these five recommendations can create a win-win situation for government and service providers and, most importantly, for the people they serve.

For more information and to explore the training opportunities, please contact info@results4america.org.