Demonstrating the Power of Evidence-Based Programs on Major U.S. Social Problems

A central goal of U.S. evidence-based policy reform is to focus government and philanthropic funding on social programs and practices (“interventions”) that have credible evidence of meaningful positive effects on people’s lives. The imperative for doing so is clear: Most social interventions are unfortunately found not to produce the hoped-for effects when rigorously evaluated – a pattern that occurs not just in social spending but in other fields, such as medicine and business. Thus, without a strong focus on evidence-based interventions, it is hard to see how social spending can successfully address poverty, educational failure, violence, drug abuse, and other critical U.S. problems.

The Laura and John Arnold Foundation’s (LJAF) Moving the Needle initiative seeks to spur expanded implementation of such interventions in order to make significant headway against U.S. social problems. Specifically, the initiative is designed to encourage state or local jurisdictions, or other entities, to:
1. Adopt social interventions shown in well-conducted randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to produce large, sustained effects on important life outcomes;
2. Implement these interventions on a sizable scale with close adherence to their key features; and
3. Determine, through a replication RCT, whether the large effects found in prior research are successfully reproduced so as to move the needle on important social problems.