Building on Today's Progress for 2016 and Beyond

04/10/2015 01:11 pm ET | Updated Jun 10, 2015

When it comes to so many of our nation's great social challenges, progress is within our reach. We know more than ever before about what works to improve results for young people, their families and communities, and across the country there is growing bipartisan momentum behind shifting public funds toward evidence-based solutions.

For too long, governments spent money the same way every year and the results were disappointingly the same. Now, technological advances, research breakthroughs and the work of bold social entrepreneurs and visionary nonprofits are pointing the way to solutions that can make a real difference in the lives of our citizens. Governments at all levels are listening. Bold leaders from both parties are using data, evidence and evaluation to follow what works, eschew the status quo and get better outcomes.

Just consider the great progress made at the federal level alone. In March, Results for America released our 2015 Federal Invest in What Works Index which highlights the extent to which six federal departments and agencies -- the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Agency for International Development, Administration for Children and Families (within HHS), Corporation for National and Community Service and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development -- are currently building the infrastructure to use data, evidence and evaluation in budget, policy and management decisions. The Index shows the innovative ways federal departments and agencies are investing in what works and scores their progress on a range of criteria. They include establishing an office or officer for evaluations and using a common evidence framework for informing funding decisions and communicating standards. The Index also looks at if departments and agencies keep updated, accessible and user-friendly data related to their core missions available. It builds on the research done into department and agency work in 2013 and 2014, and shows how far the federal government has come.

And while we should celebrate this progress, we must also recognize that more needs to be done. In little more than a year and a half, Americans will go to the polls to elect our next president. Between now and November 2016, we will hear the candidates take on many issues. We need to ensure that these candidates are discussing and embracing an agenda that focuses on investing in what works. That is why Results for America created a 2016 Policy Playbook: "Invest in What Works: How to Solve Our Nation's Great Challenges." Our Playbook provides concrete campaign and policy ideas on how those who seek the presidency can harness data, evidence and evaluation to win, but also set the bar for how to govern.

It specifically recommends that the next president of the United States commit to:

  • Building more evidence so that government decisions can be based on increasingly sophisticated knowledge, including clarifying evidence to determine what works, for whom and in what situations;
  • Investing federal dollars based on evidence and data, steering public dollars toward programs that improve outcomes and increasing investments where evidence of effectiveness is clear; and
  • Redirecting public resources away from interventions that consistently fail to achieve desired results.

The time is right for government to complete the shift toward a more evidence-based approach. President Barack Obama built on the efforts of President George W. Bush and so must our 45th president increase our nation's commitment to investing public funds in what works. The result will be better economic and social outcomes for all Americans, including those most in need.

The next occupant of the Oval Office will have the chance to make significant progress in removing obstacles to economic mobility, measurably improving individual lives and making large-scale progress on our nation's great challenges. That's why he or she must harness the growing body of data and evidence to improve the lives of all young people, their families and their communities.

The new reports released by Results for America highlight the work that has been done over the last several years, and they provide a roadmap for how candidates, policymakers and government leaders from across the political spectrum can use data and evidence to improve lives -- in 2016 and beyond.