Articles America Plays Moneyball: promoting data-driven government

America Plays Moneyball: promoting data-driven government

Across the world there are increasing calls for evidence to play a greater role in government policy. In the US, Results for America are leading the rallying cry. In this blog, Michele Jolin, their CEO and Co-Founder, discusses the growing bipartisan support for data-driven government and the work that Results for America is doing to promote this agenda.

When President Obama released his fiscal year 2016 Budget request, most of the focus was on his “middle-class economics” proposals and whether Republicans would find any elements in the budget to support or would the U.S government’s budget process remain broken. What received far less attention were the many proposals spread throughout the Budget designed to increase the use of data, evidence and evaluation in federal government programs.

For example, President Obama’s Budget request proposed: expanding set-aside funds for rigorous evaluations at the U.S. Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services; increasing resources to promote Pay for Success initiatives at five federal departments and agencies; doubling funding for evidence-based innovation funds; supporting results-driven federal discretionary and mandatory programs; and authorizing projects to give cities and states additional flexibility to combine federal funds and focus on outcomes.

A data-driven approach to government

These proposals build on earlier efforts by President George W. Bush and represent an encouraging sign of the momentum building behind an “invest in what works” approach to governing in the United States.

We have seen other promising signs as well. Notably, last fall, then-U.S. House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) and then-U.S. Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) jointly proposed bipartisan legislation that would create a commission designed to realize the potential of administrative data. The Obama Administration has now embraced that proposal in its Budget.

Results for America is working to expand these efforts across all levels of government. That’s why in 2013, we launched the Moneyball for Government campaign. Named after the book and movie about Major League Baseball’s famous 2002 Oakland A’s team that succeeded against big-spending opponents by using a data-driven approach, Moneyball for Government seeks to ensure that policy and funding decisions by governments are informed by the best possible data and evidence about what works. By using data and evidence of impact, governments are able to allocate scarce taxpayer dollars wisely and have a bigger impact on improving the lives of young people, their families and communities.

Bipartisan support

We are optimistic about this approach to governing and know it can be achieved in America in a bipartisan way. For proof, we need to look no further than the great bipartisan group of current and former U.S. government leaders, including U.S. Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Mark Warner (D-VA), who recently came together to write the best-selling book Moneyball for Government. In the book, the authors make the case that investing in what works can provide a roadmap out of American political gridlock and encourage government to change how it works so that data, evidence and evaluation drive policy and funding decisions.

We know that this change won’t come easily. However, if we can bridge the gap between knowing what works and our elected officials and policy makers using that information to get better outcomes, we can improve lives nationwide and ultimately, around the world.

Interested in reading other blogs in our series from the USA and Canada? Check out ‘What is Evidence-Based Policy?‘ & ‘We need to turn up the volume on this quiet revolution‘.


Views expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of the Alliance for Useful Evidence. Join us (it’s free and open to all) and find out more about the how we champion the use of evidence in social policy and practice.