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The Harvard Family Research Project separated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to become the Global Family Research Project as of January 1, 2017. It is no longer affiliated with Harvard University.

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Diane Schilder of Harvard Family Research Project identifies key issues in the successful design of RBA systems.

Why aren't government child and family programs run more like private sector businesses? Why aren't bureaucrats held accountable for the performance of the programs that they oversee? How can state and local governments better engage citizens in working on solutions to problems facing families? Forthcoming publications from the Results-Based Accountability (RBA) Project at HFRP examine how eight states are tackling these important questions.

Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, and Vermont have actively participated in our RBA study, sharing their insights and lessons learned. These states have examined key issues facing their communities and have articulated a vision of where they want their state to be. They have developed goals and are tracking progress toward achieving these goals. These states represent very different models and different contexts, and each has important insights to share with others who are in the process of designing an RBA system.

Through in-depth interviews with over 200 individuals across the eight states, document reviews, and observations, HFRP staff have identified key issues in the successful design of RBA systems. A sample of these, which will be further described in our forthcoming publications, includes:

  • Begin by engaging citizens in a strategic planning process. This not only contributes to stakeholder buy-in, but provides a forum for civic engagement. Individuals participating in the planning process feel ownership of the issues identified and the solutions recommended to address problems.

  • Develop strategies for effectively communicating results to different audiences. The states and communities most effective in sustaining their RBA efforts have multiple publications that convey information to technical audiences and policymakers as well as to the public.

  • Make RBA data useful to multiple audiences. It is critical to demonstrate to individuals how they can use information for decision-making. In promoting a data-based approach to decision making, RBA systems have the potential to overwhelm users with information. Simply providing data can create frustration for people who do not quickly see how they can influence the problem. Therefore, it is important to give audience strategies to address concerns identified by RBA data.

  • Link evaluations to RBA systems. Having strong evaluation data in addition to RBA data can help to translate the data into information that can be useful. Evaluation data help to answer questions of why programs do or do not work and what action must be taken to improve results.

  • Identify both who is responsible for achieving results and who has the authority to achieve the results. This seemingly simple step is often overlooked. Frequently state agencies are held accountable for achieving results when they do not have the authority to influence the specific result.

The HFRP staff wishes to thank the many individuals who contributed to these insights. Current publications can be obtained by contacting our publications office at 617-496-4304. By late 1997, we will be publishing additional RBA reports. For further information about the RBA project, contact Diane Schilder at 617-495-9108.

Diane Schilder, Project Manager, HFRP

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