The 2023 Invest in What Works State Standard of Excellence shows growing momentum among states for building and using data and evidence to improve residents’ lives and make more efficient and effective use of taxpayer dollars.
The Invest in What Works State Standard of Excellence sets a national standard – a “north star” – for the capacity and infrastructure state governments need to consistently and effectively use evidence and data in budget, policy, and management decisions to deliver better, more equitable results.
The 2023 Invest in What Works State Standard of Excellence showcases 194 efforts (in effect as of August 2023) across 46 states that show how states are using data and evidence to achieve better outcomes and invest in what works, particularly through evidence-based grantmaking, budgeting and direct services.
In 2023, Results for America identified Colorado, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oregon and Tennessee as Leading States for their exemplary use of data-driven and evidence-based practices, policies, programs, and systems. Results for America also recognized five Honorable Mention states — California, Connecticut, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Utah — for their increasing commitment to evidence-based policymaking.
Hawaii, Maine, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Wyoming are newly featured states in 2023.
The State Standard of Excellence highlights the strides state governments have made to:
- Embed equity in the setting of strategic goals and outcomes, led by the governor and executive branch.
- Collect, use, and report disaggregated data, evidence, and results to deepen the understanding of the impacts of policies, programs, and processes.
- Build inclusive processes that provide meaningful decision-making opportunities for communities and stakeholder groups when decisions are being made that affect them.
- Analyze the impact of budget, policy, and management decisions through an equity lens to achieve more equitable outcomes and results for residents.
Invest in What Works State Standard of Excellence Background
Results for America developed the 2023 Invest in What Works State Standard of Excellence between October 2022 and October 2023. Results for America gave the state governments featured in the 2023 State Standard of Excellence an opportunity to review and comment on the content and presentation of the information related to their examples. Results for America recognizes the complexity of summarizing state government practices, policies, and programs into a multi-state Standard of Excellence, and as such, Results for America exercised its best judgment and relied on the deep expertise of leaders both within and outside of the state government during the development of the State Standard of Excellence.
Results for America acknowledges that there are likely additional state government practices and policies that were not identified or communicated to Results for America and, thus, are not included in the 2023 State Standard of Excellence. Results for America plans to continue publishing updated versions of the State Standard of Excellence to illustrate how states are progressing in their use of evidence and data to improve outcomes for residents and increase racial equity.
Results for America’s analysis is based on data provided under license by The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Results First initiative (which was used to inform its 2017 report on states’ engagement in evidence-based policymaking) and input from more than 150 current and former state government officials and other experts. The views expressed herein are those of Results for America and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Pew Charitable Trusts or the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. All hyperlinks to the World Wide Web in this report were operational at the time of publication; however, URLs may change over time. Results for America regrets any inconvenience to readers; links will be updated in future editions.
For the State Standard of Excellence, Results for America classified state governments’ data-driven and evidence-based practices, policies, programs, and systems as “leading” or “promising” examples based on: (1) whether the effort met the minimum threshold described below and (2) the extent to which it demonstrates three characteristics: depth, breadth, and equity.
In order to meet the minimum threshold for inclusion as leading or promising, the example must:
1) Meet the requirements of the criteria question.
2) Be in effect as of August 2023.
3) Be verifiable with publicly available information.
Depth refers to the extent to which the practice, policy, program, or system is exemplary in all aspects of the criteria. Each criteria has one to six scoring criteria that are used to assess whether a state example meets the criteria.
Breadth refers to whether the example is in effect across the state government, across multiple state agencies or across a single state agency.
Equity refers to how the practice, policy, program, or system is advancing equitable outcomes for residents or is supporting equitable government practices, policies, programs, or systems.
The State Standard of Excellence is updated annually.