The Secret to Programs that Work: New tools for program design and evaluation


John Griffith, Center for American Progress


The way public policy is designed today often results in programs that sound good in hearings but don’t work in the real world. After consulting about 200 government experts over six months, our recent report diagnoses common design flaws in government programs, and proposes a kind of advance-warning system to help policymakers distinguish between programs with a high chance of success from those likely to run into problems down the line. We also adapted these tools and procedures to evaluate the effectiveness of existing programs. At a time of fiscal austerity, Washington urgently needs a better way to distinguish the most effective programs from those in need of reform—else it risks slashing good programs simply because they have less political support. Our “Reviewing What Works” process evaluates programs across a policy area against outcome-based priority goals, using interagency panels as arbiters of effectiveness.

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