BetaGov

Most public policies and practices—such as how we educate our children, deliver healthcare, rehabilitate incarcerated individuals, or house the homeless—have never been methodically tested. Traditional evaluations that involve academic researchers, government funders, and bureaucratic red tape are expensive and slow, which limits the number of ideas that can be tested. As a result, many policies intended to make us smarter, safer, or healthier are based more on intuition than on empirical data.

BetaGov increases the pace of learning in areas such as healthcare, social services, criminal justice, and education\—working with public sector practitioners to quickly identify policies that work, as well as those that don’t. The private sector has long relied on simple, pragmatic randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to improve efficiency and performance. BetaGov promotes the use of these same techniques to inform policy solutions for today’s most challenging problems. We engage practitioners and the public they serve as partners in the research process, working with them to rapidly test potential strategies that address their concerns.

Local circumstances matter: a program or practice that works well in one place might not work in another place with different culture, staffing, clients, and community resources. As a result, we support locally grown evidence. We do not endorse any particular program or practice; we engage practitioners in a process for identifying what works and what does not, in their neighborhoods, with their staff and their caseloads.

Supported by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and the Smith Richardson Foundation, BetaGov helps practitioners turn their ideas into trials that empirically test policies and practices. Assistance is free and trial results are publicly posted. One trial at a time, BetaGov is changing the way knowledge is created in the public sector.

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