Child playing hopscotch.

Learning & Evidence

Focusing on equity and continuous learning to advance better outcomes

What We Work For

We believe that effective social policy, capable of improving and redressing inequitable outcomes, requires changes to the ways in which researchers and policymakers generate and apply knowledge and evidence. 

The principles that drive our work are:

  • Valuing and using the knowledge of the people most affected by interventions;
  • Understanding the structural, systemic, cultural, and historical factors that are root causes of inequities; and
  • Focusing on the variation in impact of interventions to determine adaptions needed to produce equitable outcomes.

How We Do It

To achieve well-being for all children, families, and communities at scale, we work to advance strategies that promote:

  • The full range of interventions that contribute to better and more equitable outcomes, particularly system and community-level changes, rather than focusing solely on programs aimed at changing individual capacities and behaviors;
  • Attention to the wide range of evidence needed to inform these broader approaches, including the experience of those most affected by change—community members, youth, those involved with public systems, and others;
  • Continuous learning for improvement; and
  • “Disciplined adaptation” to fit interventions into new context.

We do this work by:

  • Developing and disseminating a conceptual framework for using evidence;
  • Developing and disseminating practical guidance about how policymakers can use existing evidence to promote better outcomes and improved equity;
  • Preparing and disseminating case studies of exemplary use of evidence by government, community leaders, and service providers; and
  • Providing quality technical assistance to decision makers about generating and using evidence.

As CSSP is committed to achieving more equitable outcomes for children and families experiencing the greatest disparities, we strive to understand the difference we and our partners are making and to share our learning and contribute to knowledge development.

The results we aim for are increases in the adoption and effective use, by government, philanthropic leaders, advocates, and researchers, of approaches to evidence that:

  • Make use of a wider variety of evidence, including evidence from the experience of the individuals and communities who are supposed to benefit from policies and programs;
  • Attend to continuous improvement in addition to the initial selection of “evidence-based” programs and practices; and
  • Use methods that promote equity in both processes (how the work is done) and outcomes (how success is measured).

We expect to see these results in areas such as: the rules for allocating government funds; the design of philanthropic initiatives; the promotion of partnerships between researchers and practitioners; and the decisions made by evaluators and other researchers.


An Evidence Framework to Improve Results

November 2014

This report explores the question of how we use a framework of continuous learning to obtain and apply the kinds of evidence that will be most useful in achieving significantly greater outcomes.

(48 pp)


Better Evidence for Decision-Makers

July 2016

This report explains why decision-makers need better support and to be truly "evidence-informed," as well as specific recommendations about how to move forward. 
(15 pp)


Better Evidence for Decision-Makers: Emerging Pathways

March 2017

This brief explains the need for "a broader range of evidence" for decision-makers, examples of what that looks like, and recommendations on policy and policy implementation.  
(12 pp)


Carnegie Math Pathways


This report investigates Pathways through the lens of how it uses and generates evidence to achieve its goal of building a substantial infrastructure to support and embed quality improvement.
(9 pp)


Evidence Case Study: Summary

This brief compiles case studies from various initiatives and makes the concept of a “culture of evidence” accessible with illustrations of an approach to improve equitable outcomes for families and communities.
(5 pp)


Expanding the Evidence Universe: Doing Better By Knowing More

December 2011

This report provides recommendations related to expanding the knowledge base necessary to improve outcomes for children, families, and communities and was written for discussion at the Harold Richman Public Policy Symposium, the first in a series of forums honoring the memory of Harold Richman, co-founder of CSSP.

(60 pp)


Friends of Evidence Case Study: Harlem Children’s Zone


This brief looks at how HCZ uses and generates evidence to achieve its goals. Its analysis is organized around five characteristics found in initiatives considered “evidence innovators.”
(8 pp)


Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ): Building Evidence for Achieving Success, at Scale


This brief looks at how NAZ uses and generates evidence to accomplish its goals. It explores five characteristics of an inclusive approach to evidence—characteristics encountered in initiatives considered “evidence innovators.” 
(7 pp)