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 the majority 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 what we will learn here be scaled, replicated, and disseminated for maximum impact?
We have already seen evidence translate to ending poverty for families across the country.
With our partner Catholic Charities Fort Worth, our study of their Stay the Course™ intervention helped grow a small program that served 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 housing voucher distributed by the federal HUD-VASH program, 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 our partner 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 convinced the City of Chicago to 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 have found that Excel Center graduates are 22 percentage points more likely to be enrolled in college one year after applying, and earn $3,200 more employment income three 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 Excel Centers in Austin, TX and Memphis, TN launching their own LEO research studies to continue discovering which aspects of their schooling model are most effective at supporting students. Evidence that lead to impact.
And we have seen how our research has sparked a commitment—stronger than any other time in our nation’s history—among lawmakers to evidence-based policy. In 2014, LEO co-founder Jim Sullivan wrote a policy brief for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee eon 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.