2021 Invest in What Works
State Standard of Excellence

A national benchmark – a “north star” – for how state governments invest in what works.

About the 2021 State Standard of Excellence

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, state government leaders faced immense challenges from managing a public health crisis that was rapidly evolving to investing in an economic recovery that is equitable and lasting. The 2021 Invest in What Works State Standard of Excellence demonstrates that data and evidence can support states in building the capacity to make better decisions about how to drive an economic recovery; advance equitable outcomes for residents and governments; and invest in evidence-based programs and services.

In the 2021 State Standard of Excellence, Results for America identified 202 examples of data-driven and evidence-based practices, policies, programs, and systems in effect as of August 2021 in 36 states across the country.

In 2021, Results for America identified nine Leading states: Colorado, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington, and Utah and four Honor Roll states: Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island for their commitment to evidence-based policymaking.

Read Results for America’s analysis, including key findings and growth of practices by sector and criteria.


2021 State Standard of Excellence Criteria

The 2021 Invest in What Works State Standard of Excellence includes 16 criteria that are organized by thematic areas: Managing for Results, Leveraging Data, Building and Using Evidence, and Investing for Results. Read more about the Criteria breakdown here.

1. Strategic Goals

The state has statewide strategic goals that are public, quantitative, published regularly, customer oriented, aligned, equity oriented, and publicly informed.

Leading Example

Colorado

2. Performance Management

The state has achieved better outcomes through an enterprise performance management system that engages state leaders in using performance data to continuously improve results.

Leading Example

Washington

3. Culture

The state has a culture that supports the sustainable use of data and evidence to deliver results in a transparent, equitable, and ethical manner.

Leading Example

Colorado

4. Innovation

The state uses innovation to achieve its priority goals and improve results for residents.

Leading Example

New Jersey

5. Data Leadership & Governance

The state has senior leadership and governance structures with the mandate to equitably use data to improve results.

Leading Example

Connecticut

6. Data Policies

The state has data policies that outline the principles, people, and activities that govern its data collection and use.

Leading Example

Colorado

7. Data Infrastructure

The state has improved outcomes through technology infrastructure that allows it to efficiently collect, inventory, and share data.

Leading Example

Ohio

8. Data Use

The state has improved outcomes by combining and analyzing cross-agency data to inform policy, budget, or management decisions.

Leading Example

Indiana

9. Evaluation Leadership & Governance

The state has a leadership and governance structure with the authority to use evaluations to improve results.

Leading Example

Tennessee

10. Evaluation Policies

The state has evaluation policies and a learning agenda that outline the principles, people, and activities to use evidence to improve results.

Leading Example

Minnesota

11. Evaluation Resources

The state has dedicated resources for using evaluations to improve results.

Leading Example

Minnesota

12. Evaluation Use

The state has improved results by using evaluation, program inventories, and cost-benefit analysis.

Leading Example

Minnesota

13. Results-Focused Budget Process

The state has improved outcomes by prioritizing data and evidence in its budget process through guidance to agencies and engagement with the legislature.

Leading Example

New Mexico

14. Results-Focused Contracting

The state has improved outcomes by using results-focused contracts for its publicly funded programs.

Leading Example

Washington

15. Evidence-Based Grantmaking

The state has improved outcomes by allocating grant funding based on evidence of effectiveness.

Leading Example

Nevada

16. Repurpose for Results

The state has improved outcomes by moving funds away from programs that are ineffective and toward those that get results.

Leading Example

Pennsylvania

Leading & Promising Examples by State

Hover or click on a state to learn more about where it excels in State Standard of Excellence criteria.

202

state examples in 2021

36

U.S. states represented in 2021

130%

increase in examples since 2018

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. Results for America thanks all the state government leaders who contributed to the 2021 State Standard of Excellence.