Creating evidence isn’t enough. Using it is what matters. That is where impact happens.
Since LEO’s founding in 2012, our focus has been on creating evidence that impacts the way our nation addresses poverty through public policy, philanthropy, and the social service industry.
We are in the earlier stages of learning, with most of our projects in the “active” phase of running experiments. As we get research results, we will use them. And as we start new partnerships and projects, we start with the end in mind: How can our learnings be scaled, replicated, and disseminated for maximum impact?
We have already seen evidence translate to ending poverty for families across the country.
Our study of Catholic Charities Fort Worth's Stay the Course™ intervention helped grow a small program serving 17 people into a robust community-embraced initiative with plans to serve over 3,000 students in the next five years. Evidence that lead to impact.
Through our research on veteran homelessness, we learned that for every federal HUD-VASH housing voucher distributed, one fewer veteran is living on the streets. We shared what we learned in a congressional policy briefing that resulted in congressional advocacy for HUD-VASH funding, and potential legislation to provide every homeless veteran in the U.S. with a housing voucher. Evidence that lead to impact.
When we studied the Homelessness Prevention Call Center operated by Catholic Charities Chicago, we saw that the relatively modest amounts of emergency financial assistance provided to eligible callers resulted in a 76% decline in homelessness for those families. The research helped Catholic Charities Chicago maintain funding for this vital service. Today, California is looking to this evidence to inform its own strategies to reduce homelessness in the state. Evidence that lead to impact.
Through our partnership with Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana’s Excel Center, we found that Excel Center graduates are 33 percentage points more likely to be enrolled in college or a post-secondary professional certificate program, and earn $3,776 more employment income five years after applying. These outcomes were shared with the Indiana Legislature as proof that government investment in the Excel Center is paying worthy dividends. And the promise of this evidence is spreading throughout the Goodwill network, with an Excel Center in Austin, TX launching their own LEO research studiy to continue discovering which aspects of their model are most effective at supporting students. And the impact is ongoing. One barrier Goodwill Excel Center has been facing is expanding to other states because most states have policies that you cannot go to high school if you are over the age of 21. So, the Goodwill Excel Center went on a mission to change state policies. And what did they find was the key to unlocking state policy? The evidence they built with LEO. For example, to support this scaling effort, LEO submitted written testimony to the Arizona legislature advocating for evidence building and use of evidence in policy making. And in August 2021, Arizona Governor, Doug Ducey, announced the state is investing $12 million for Goodwill Excel Centers. Evidence that lead to impact.
And we have seen how our research has sparked a commitment to evidence-based policy—stronger than any other time in our nation’s history—among lawmakers. In 2014, LEO co-founder Jim Sullivan wrote a policy brief for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Budget, outlining how a national clearinghouse for administrative data would lead to more high-quality research on the effectiveness of social programs, and advocating for the use of this research by policymakers and social service providers. Building off these ideas, he advised House staffers on draft legislation to create a federal commission to explore this issue more deeply. In 2016, this bill became law, creating the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking. The early impact of this commission is a new law—the Foundations of Evidence-Based Policymaking Act—that allows for greater access to administrative data for research purposes. This act will promote better evidence on the impact of social programs, which will in turn lead to more effective social policy and ultimately improve the well-being of low-income families across America.
Evidence that leads to impact. Outsmarting poverty.