GrantSolutions Partners and the Evidence Act: Progress, Challenges, and Opportunities for 2021

Two years after the signing of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (the Evidence Act) on January 14, 2019, many Federal agencies still lack the data and evidence necessary to make critical decisions about program operations, policy, and regulations to gain visibility into the impact of resource allocation on achieving program objectives.

The Evidence Act emphasizes collaboration and coordination to advance data and evidence-building functions in the Federal government. It establishes processes for the Federal government to modernize its data management practices, evidence-building functions, and statistical efficiency to inform policy decisions.

GrantSolutions Partners recently spoke about how they are implementing different parts of the Evidence Act and how they are dealing with challenges many agencies still face at a Grants Roundtable Discussion. Those who are furthest along in the process emphasize the importance of collaborating and building relationships with the Program Office.

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) found that they were mainly focused on compliance – and while that is a positive, it also led them to the realization that there were many accepted practices within the agency that no one knew the reason for and needed to be reexamined to better focus on supporting recipients’ needs. ACF is now working to increase competition in applications and allow for longer application windows, by streamlining a complex Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) process. Collecting this data is the first step in a journey to benchmark performance in terms of a recipient’s success by changing the end goal from making grants to solving problems.

One of the biggest challenges GrantSolutions Partners are facing is collecting quality data and coordinating data from a centralized space, both within each agency and across the entire Federal Government. Several Partners shared the innovative ways they are tackling this issue.

The Department of Labor (DOL) reports that they have established Data Officers who conduct department-wide data inventory. At the agency level, they examine past grants to study performance and compare them with new grants. In DOL’s case, this involves tracking training and job placements. In this way they look for which techniques for recipients are successful.

The US Department of the Interior (DOI) now collects data across the entire grant lifecycle. By examining multiple data elements, they have insight into what is happening that they did not have before. Data is accessed in the form of a dashboard portal that shows multiple lines of business.

Investing in and focusing on the management and use of data and evidence across the Federal Government will enable agencies to shift away from low-value activities toward actions that will support decision makers: linking spending to program outputs, delivering on mission, better managing enterprise risks, and promoting civic engagement and transparency.

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