How do you know if your program or initiative is effective? How do you gather proven practices or implement evidence-based practices? To respond to these questions, WSS presents three research and evaluation resources! The following resources provide cases for using evidenced-based practices, advancing evidence-based decision-making, and applying two research methodologies–opportunistic experiments and qualitative methods—in human services programs and workforce collaboratives.

Making the Case for What Works: Using Evidence-Based Practices to Support Innovation. 2015. Evidence-based practice is the process of systematically finding, appraising and using current research findings as the basis for making sound programmatic design decisions. Implementing evidence-based practices can help ensure effective service design and delivery without reinventing the wheel. This tutorial allows users to gain a solid understanding of what evidence-based practices are and how to use them to inform the development of new programs or initiatives. Importantly, it presents how to communicate to funders and other stakeholders the value of programs and initiatives and to justify investing in them. 

Advancing Evidence-Based Decision Making: A Toolkit on Recognizing and Conducting Opportunistic Experiments in the Family Self-Sufficiency and Stability Policy Area. 2015. This toolkit presents a novel research methodology, opportunistic experiments (OE), which is defined as “a type of [randomized controlled trial] that studies the effects of an initiative, program change, or policy action that an agency or program plans or intends to implement.” The resource showcases OE’s advantages over more traditional research experiments; explains its potential value in evaluating human services programs; and details the steps needed to conduct this type of experiment. Overall, the authors emphasize that “[a]t every level of the human services system, leaders need to know which programs, policies, and practices are most effective….Relatively low-cost and quick turnaround opportunistic experiments can be embedded within an agency’s ongoing operations in a manner designed to provide strong and timely evidence of effectiveness.”

How to Use Qualitative Research in a Workforce Collaborative. 2017. This resource provides step-by-step guidance for workforce partnership collaboratives to collect and use qualitative data to better understand the experiences of program stakeholders and make timely program improvements. It also describes how qualitative research is embedded into a learning community partnership in Washington. “The qualitative research strategies [shared]…are aimed at developing a comprehensive view of how different workforce development programs are working from the vantage point of workforce participants, instructors, navigators, college administrators, employers, and other key partners.”