J-PAL North America, a regional office of MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), has announced six new partnerships with government agencies and leading nonprofits through the State and Local Evaluation Incubator and the Housing Stability Evaluation Incubator, launched in August 2022. These collaborators span the contiguous United States and represent a wide range of social policy areas.
Over the next several months, organizations will work with J-PAL North America staff and affiliated researchers to design a randomized evaluation of one of their policies or programs. Randomized evaluations, in which participants are randomly assigned to either receive the program in question or “treatment as usual,” are unique in their ability to demonstrate the causal impact of a program. The goal of these evaluation incubators is to help organizations generate and utilize evidence to answer critical policy questions on state and local efforts to reduce poverty or addressing homelessness and housing stability.
Three collaborators aim to reduce homelessness and foster housing stability. One Roof, the coordinating agency for central Alabama’s Continuum of Care, seeks to evaluate the efficacy of a new risk assessment questionnaire for individuals experiencing homelessness upon engaging with the Coordinated Entry (CE) system. Jennifer Harrell, director of coordinated entry at One Roof, shares that “the CE program serving Central Alabama hopes to use the locally driven, evidenced-based data results learned from the randomized evaluation to begin the redesign process of the CE system to bring about more equitable housing outcomes for folks experiencing homelessness.”
The Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia (LASEV) provides legal services to low-income Virginians. “LASEV is thrilled to have the opportunity to work with J-PAL to develop evidence-based strategies in response to the eviction crisis facing the low-income families in our service area,” says Grants Manager Holly Yates. Through the Housing Stability Evaluation Incubator, LASEV will design an evaluation to assess the impact of providing legal information and reminders to individuals and families facing eviction.
Washington’s Pierce County Human Services (PCHS) plans to assess the impact of their Eviction Prevention program, which provides wraparound case management, financial counseling, and funds to low-income households who are behind on rent. Heather Moss, director of PCHS, explains that “this evaluation of our program will help the county understand how best to use our limited resources to help neighbors at risk of losing their housing.”
The remaining collaborators operate in distinct and important policy areas: procedural justice, transportation, and income assistance. In California, the Anaheim Police Department aims to evaluate two officer training programs — wellness and procedural justice — to assess their impact on community trust. Deputy Chief of Police Rick Armendariz explains that their goal “is to provide training for our officers that helps them deal with their difficult, complex, and stressful job, while understanding the importance of developing a strong relationship with the community they serve.” On the topic of procedural justice specifically, the Anaheim Police Department hopes that their evaluation can inform policing policy more widely.
Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) plans to pilot and evaluate a guaranteed basic income program for low-income families with children. “Evaluating new and existing government programs provides data decision-makers can use to make government as efficient and effective as possible,” says Weston Merrick, a senior manager in the Results Management unit at MMB. “This particular project seeks to understand the impact of a guaranteed basic income pilot program on income, public assistance use, health, and housing stability in a large Minnesota county.”
King County Metro, the transportation services provider for the greater Seattle, Washington, area, is looking to evaluate their new on-demand transportation service for travelers with disabilities. Carrie Cihak, metro program project director, shares her excitement about participating in the State and Local Evaluation Incubator, noting that the engagement “empowers King County Metro decision-makers with evidence on the questions that matter most to us. Partnering with J-PAL will ensure our communities gain maximum benefit from innovative mobility solutions.”
By designing rigorous evaluations of their programs through the State and Local and Housing Stability Evaluation Incubators, collaborators have the potential to not only understand their impacts, but maximize their effectiveness. J-PAL North America and its partners are excited about using these findings to inform their practices and better support their constituents. Findings from these projects are also expected to contribute to broader policy lessons across this array of sectors.
Individuals interested in learning more can contact Mera Cronbaugh for questions about the State and Local Evaluation Incubator and Laina Sonterblum for inquiries related to the Housing Stability Evaluation Incubator.