Dilip Soman looks at the pros and cons of using heuristics in general and the “SIMPLER” framework in particular ― developed specifically by the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project ― to guide practitioners in their efforts to improve human services programs.
The Incubator presents highlights of the year’s activities — the launch of monthly posts, conference workshops, numerous reports, and an array of new projects at MDRC involving implementation studies — and previews topics upcoming in 2018.
MDRC’s work can improve policy and practice only if influential people know about it and can easily use it. An important part of making sure that decision-makers hear about what we’ve learned is getting attention in the mainstream and trade press. Here are some of MDRC’s most prominent media mentions from 2017.
A Snapshot of State Efforts
The Mother and Infant Home Visiting Program Evaluation-Strong Start (MIHOPE-Strong Start) aims to determine whether home visiting programs improve birth- and health-related outcomes up to age 1. This report provides a snapshot of state efforts to promote prenatal health and improve birth outcomes, including but not limited to home visiting.
When Behavioral Interventions Aren’t Enough
Philip Oreopoulos’s commentary from the final report on the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project addresses the limitations of written communication and describes the value of personal interactions for building trusting relationships between service providers and clients, which in turn encourage active program participation.
Lessons on Increasing College Completion from Six Talent Dividend Cities
The Talent Dividend competition encouraged major metro areas to find ways to boost their proportions of college graduates. The effort suggests that cross-sector partnerships and interventions that ease students’ transitions to the next level of education hold promise in aiding credit attainment and narrowing achievement gaps between groups of students.
In 2017, MDRC released more than 80 reports, briefs, infographics, blog posts, and podcasts on programs affecting low-income Americans in all realms of education and social policy: education from preschool to postsecondary, workforce development, behavioral science, youth development, home visiting, community development, and more.
The Kansas Child Support Savings Initiative encourages parents to make deposits into tax-advantaged college savings plans in return for matching reductions in their child support debts. This report describes two randomized controlled trials conducted by Kansas and MDRC to test different methods of outreach and engagement.
Learning from the Chicago Community Networks Study
This report presents findings from the Chicago Community Networks study — one of the most extensive efforts to measure interorganizational partnerships in local neighborhoods. It uses social network analysis and extensive field research to ask how specific patterns of partnership promote better-implemented collaborations that, in turn, can inform public policy.
Assessing an intervention’s effects on multiple outcomes increases the risk of false positives. Procedures that make adjustments to address this risk can reduce power, or the probability of detecting effects that do exist. MDRC’s Reflections on Methodology discusses how to estimate power when making adjustments as well as alternative definitions of power.