Roundtable: What Do You Mean By Evidence-Based? Diverse Perspectives from the Trenches
(Politics, Media, and the Policy Process)

Thursday, November 7, 2019: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Governor's Square 15 (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Organizer:  John Hutchins, MDRC
Moderator:  Jenni Owen, Office of Governor Roy Cooper
Speakers:  Melissa Wavelet, Colorado Department of Human Services; MDRC, Lisa Hill, Invest in Kids and David Anderson, Arnold Ventures

In the past two decades, “evidence” and “evidence-based” have become the coin of the policymaking realm. For policy researchers, this is good news. But who gets to define what counts as evidence? What if the definition is too narrow; does it make evidence so precious that it is unusable to policymakers? On the other hand, what are the downsides to allowing the broadest definition possible? This roundtable features a variety of stakeholders (mostly from Colorado) who wrestle every day with how to define and use evidence.

This APPAM roundtable, the eleventh in an annual series on evidence-based policymaking, begins with the premise that it is not only good but necessary to consider and apply different perspectives on evidence — as long as there is clarity about the goals being pursued. This doesn’t mean claiming that a pre-post program evaluation provides the same causal evidence as a randomized controlled trial. Rather, the question of interest should inform the method and type of evidence pursued.

Reflecting the conference theme, this panel features leaders whose organizations demonstrate the diversity of perspectives in the evidence-based policymaking realm. Colorado-based panelists include a senior official in the Colorado Governor’s office who is part of the state’s evidence-based policy collaborative (to be determined); the former Director of the Office of Performance & Strategic Outcomes at the Colorado Department of Human Services; a statewide nonprofit leader who has changed her organization’s way of doing business as the result of evidence expectations; and a Colorado-based leader of a foundation that supports the evidence-based policy movement. The moderator is the director of strategic partnerships for Governor Roy Cooper of North Carolina.

This proposal stems from roundtables that Jenni Owen and John Hutchins have organized at each APPAM conference since 2009 on the major growth in the use of evidence in education and social policymaking. Topics thus far have included examining the staying power of evidence-based policymaking during tight budget times; the challenge of “scaling up” evidence-based programs; the politics of evidence-based policymaking in states and localities; the opportunities presented by successful policymaker-researcher collaborations; and reporting on research in an age of polarization and fake news.