An Introduction to the J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative

Last Updated:
November 14, 2018
Creating and Using Rigorous Evidence to Address Important Social Issues

State and local leaders are actively innovating and experimenting with approaches to address complex policy challenges. Yet too often, they must act without the benefit of rigorous evidence about what has been tried and proven elsewhere, or of learning after the fact which of their own policies and programs were most effective.

The goal of the J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative is to assist state and local governments in using randomized evaluations to generate new and widely applicable lessons about which programs and policies work, which work best, and why.

When governments partner with researchers to conduct high-quality and policy-relevant evaluations, the results can be powerful. Randomized evaluations can have an impact beyond those individuals who participate directly by generating evidence about what works, which decision-makers can use in making program improvements and in scaling up effective programs to reach more people.

The publication follows two examples of how government leaders have partnered with researchers to examine an important policy issue: the impact of summer jobs programs on the young people who participate. In Chicago, researchers found that the summer jobs programs led to meaningful reductions in violence—an important finding for policymakers. In turn, the results from Chicago inspired policymakers in the City of Philadelphia to apply to the first round of the J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative to learn more about the impact of their own summer youth employment programs.