Panel Paper: Delivering on the Promise of Data Driven Program Improvement: The TANF Data Innovations Project

Thursday, November 8, 2018
8224 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Richard Hendra, MDRC

This presentation provides an overview of the TANF Data Innovations project, drawing on the experiences of our partners described above.

Data is everywhere in our modern world, but is seldom leveraged to its fullest potential. The TANF Data Innovations (TDI) project is a new initiative to help TANF agencies harness the full potential of using administrative records data to improve program performance and the lives of low-income families. We will do this by building staff capacity at the state or local level to respond to TANF administrators’ need for information – for example, understanding the changing dynamics of welfare caseloads, identifying the pathways out of welfare, or predicting who may best benefit from specific social programs.

Sponsored by the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) in collaboration with the Office of Family Assistance (OFA), in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Administration for Children and Families (ACF), TDI will help states leverage data for performance metrics, analytics, and building research evidence to improve human services programs and outcomes for families. The project will start with a comprehensive needs assessment of state TANF agencies and engaging a range of stakeholders to collect information on the readiness of TANF agencies to set up, link, and operate data systems supporting program improvement.

Informed by the needs assessment, TDI will provide TANF staff a wide range of trainings, one-on-one technical consultations, conferences, and tools over a 30-month period. This includes:

  • helping TANF program managers formulate the questions they want answers to,
  • offering training in how to create integrated databases and user-friendly visualizations
  • providing support for using data analysis to improve program effectiveness,
  • creating a national Learning Collaborative available to TANF agencies and other stakeholders that assures on-going sharing of information and promising practices
  • utilizing the most current adult learning principles
  • emphasizing hands-on participation with a focus on state-driven projects, and
  • providing technical support customized to address TANF agency priorities.

In addition, TDI will provide an opportunity for a subset of TANF agencies to become pilot sites, with customized technical consultation to support the implementation of specific projects of interest to the agency. By disseminating and institutionalizing modern data integration and analysis approaches and by designing resources to support data driven approaches to program improvement across the human services community, TDI will have a lasting impact on evidence-based policy making in TANF and adjacent human services programs.

This presentation will provide an overview of the project with an emphasis on the unique approach that the project is taking to training and building the field through cross-sector collaboration.