Protecting and enhancing the role of evidence: Interview with Kathy Stack of LJAF

What works: A new emphasis on evidence in the US

Kathy Stack retired from federal service last year after 34 years (prior to OMB, she served for six years at the Department for Education). Not for her, though, the sunlit uplands of retirement. Instead, she headed for the Laura and John Arnold Foundation – a private foundation run by a former hedge fund manager and his wife. Stack serves as the foundation’s vice president for evidence-based innovation.

It’s a role that plays to her insights and experience gained during her long stint at OMB, where she helped federal agencies design innovative grant-making models that allocate funding based on evidence and evaluation. “As an agency that doles out money, OMB has a powerful way of persuading other leaders and agencies to embrace its way of thinking,” she concedes. “And at the time when President Obama took office, there was a new set of leaders coming on board who were in full agreement about the need to use evidence. The stars were aligned.”

Still, she also admits that the current state of play on evidence-based policymaking in the US is very much a mixed picture. “At the federal level, there have been dramatic improvements in certain social service programmes, building on the work that was done in the Bush administration, where there was a lifting up of the value of rigorous evaluation. At the state and local level, it is very spotty. There are some amazing things going on in places like New York City, Chicago and Utah, but there are also opportunities to do much more. The success stories are important, though, because they make it easier to drive the agenda at a federal level as you can point to how it helps local constituents.”  Access the complete article.

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