NYU Urban Seminar hosted by the Marron Institute, CUSP & Furman Center
245 SULLIVAN STREET
NEW YORK, NY 10012
Most of our public policies—how we educate our children, rehabilitate convicted offenders, or house the homeless—have one thing in common: they have never been rigorously tested. Conducting rigorous evaluations has traditionally involved professional researchers, extramural funders, and yards of red tape. As a result, many commonplace policies intended to make us smarter, safer, or healthier are based more on intuition than on data. The movement toward “evidence-based practices” was a step in the right direction, except that these practices often lack actual evidence. Another problem is that an evidence-based practice (even one based on good evidence) that works well in Place A might not in Place B. BetaGov removes the barriers to conducting rigorous evaluations of policies and practices and seeks to make these assessments the norm rather than the exception—homegrown, practitioner-led trials. The most rigorous test of an intervention—random assignment—is also the simplest to interpret; with the support provided at no cost by BetaGov, practitioners can carry out randomized controlled trials (RCTs) at minimal cost and contribute to a registry of evidence with greater scope, rigor, and practical value than anything produced by traditional academia. The private sector has long relied on simple, targeted RCTs to improve efficiency and performance. BetaGov promotes these same techniques to guide policy solutions for our most challenging social problems. Angela Hawken, founder of BetaGov, will discuss how it came about and some promising new directions, with a focus on criminal justice.