Building Capacity, Overcoming Obstacles, and Creating Evidence: An Evaluation Guide for State and Local Policymakers

Since 2015, J-PAL’s State and Local Innovation Initiative has partnered with state and local governments to generate rigorous evidence on what works to reduce poverty around the United States. J-PAL North America has received more than 100 letters of interest from state and local governments across the country over the past five years. This initiative formed the basis for many conversations, conferences, training courses, and opportunities for mutual learning with these government partners. Local and state governments have identified critical knowledge gaps, in essence, sketching out a “demand map” of where research needs can be targeted to address policy challenges. We have launched in-depth partnerships with 29 state and local governments to develop randomized evaluations designed to inform their priority policy questions.

With this guide, J-PAL North America aims to share lessons learned from government partners, so that other governments that are interested in pursuing randomized evaluations can learn from their experience. This guide builds on J-PAL North America’s publication, “Implementing Randomized Evaluations in Government,” with lessons and activities from the past five years of the initiative. This guide also draws upon the experience of J-PAL’s staff, who have worked with many different government agencies, non-profits, and other partners, as well as the more than 1,000 ongoing and completed randomized evaluations conducted by J-PAL’s affiliated researchers worldwide.

The guide provides practical direction on how to identify good opportunities for randomized evaluations, embed randomized evaluations into program or policy implementation, and how to overcome some of the common challenges in designing and carrying out randomized evaluations. The guide also includes links to resources and toolkits with more information.