Principles of Next Generation Evidence

A call to action for those who believe in the power of a stronger and more equitable evidence ecosystem to drive greater impact for communities.

Project Evident developed these principles based on insights gained over the past five years working with practitioners, funders, researchers, and policymakers, and informed by our Next Generation Evidence Advisory Committee and numerous other partners.

Today, our constructive dissatisfaction with the status quo is as deep as ever, as is our commitment to using data and evidence as tools to improve outcomes and advance equity. Systemic racial and economic disparities in education, health, housing, income, wealth, policing, criminal justice, and public safety persist, and have been exacerbated by the pandemic. This moment calls for us to respond to the demands for change with bold solutions that can deliver real outcomes. Data and evidence can be important tools to accelerate and measure progress. 

Furthermore, this is an exciting moment for evidence in the social sector. Momentum is building around the belief that a stronger data and evidence ecosystem – one that centers on the voices of people and communities most directly impacted by the problems we seek to solve – can lead to better, more meaningful, and more equitable outcomes. Evidence and science are “back on the federal menu,” with advances underway through implementation of the 2018 Evidence Act and President Biden’s 2022 executive orders on racial equity and scientific integrity and evidence-based policymaking.

We hope this effort will generate connections among like-minded practitioners, funders, policymakers, researchers, community members, and technical assistance providers. Investing in this ecosystem now will allow us to build an increasingly resilient country that provides more equitable opportunities for all.

We invite you to join us in calling for a more practitioner-centric and equitable evidence ecosystem that:

Centers on Practitioners and the Communities they Serve

Practitioners – those at nonprofit organizations and public agencies who deliver programs and services – must be empowered to drive their own evidence agendas. With their unique perspective, straddling program and participant, practitioners have valuable insights into what research is critical to improving social sector outcomes and how to use new data and evidence to drive program improvement. 

Connects Equity with Data and Evidence

We believe that evidence is a promising and powerful driver of equity, that equitable evidence practices will result in stronger outcomes, and that equity must be considered both in the way that evidence and data are built and used, and in the types of outcomes we seek to address: opportunity and disproportionality. We borrow language from PolicyLink in defining equitable outcomes as outcomes that are possible when individuals have the fair and just opportunity to reach their full potential, and achievement is not predetermined based on race, gender, socioeconomic status, or other demographic characteristics. To begin to address equity, practitioners, funders, and technical assistance providers should:  

  • Build organizational capacity and practices for continuous dialogue, reflection and other learning activities among staff at all levels of the organization, including front line staff. 
  • Consider systems, policies, practices, cultural norms and community conditions that drive inequity, especially those related to poverty and racism. 
  • Align staff and program participants on theory of change and outcomes measures. Develop data collection tools and processes that are respectful and responsive to the needs of different groups. 
  • Engage staff, program participants, and other stakeholders in the development of data and evaluation protocols at every level. 
  • Ensure that the data and evaluations produce benefit and are accessible to program participants.
Elevates Community Voice

Communities must have the power to shape and participate in the evidence building process to ensure that data being shared and services provided are of value to both participants and program improvement. 

Embraces a Continuous R&D-like Approach

The social sector has been stuck in a “one and done” mentality surrounding evaluation for too long. Research and Development (R&D) – a disciplined process for learning, testing and improving – must become standard practice in the education and social sectors to enable timely and relevant continuous evidence building. Alongside technical assistance providers and researchers, practitioners have a role in these efforts that needs to be well-resourced with both staff and funding, and that should inform the strategic direction of agencies and organizations.

Reimagines Evidence to Broaden Its Definition and Use

We have relied too heavily on frameworks and definitions that are overly narrow and don’t promote continuous evidence building, but rather contribute to a “thumbs up or thumbs down” mindset. We have falsely equated rigor with randomized controlled trials alone, and paid too little attention to important evidence built in other ways. And we generate evidence that is not always sufficiently mindful of financial and practical realities to be viable for communities. To build evidence that is more relevant, timely, and cost-effective, we must broaden the definition of evidence to include not only statistical but also practical significance and allow consideration of confidence level, size of impact, speed to insight, and cost. Methods should be matched to question and context. Evidence should be responsive to the operational context of practitioners, attend to systemic and structural conditions, and prioritize practitioner decision-making and learning. 


Lola Adedokun, Executive Director, Aspen Global Innovators Group

America Forward

Barr Foundation

Noa Ben David, Social Mobility Research Knowledge Manager, Joint Israel

Mary Bissell, Partner, ChildFocus

Jake Bowers, Associate Professor, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Katy Brodsky Falco, Executive Director, Criminal Justice Lab at NYU Law

John Brothers, President, T. Rowe Price Foundation and T. Rowe Price Charitable

Laurie Brotman, Professor of Population Health, Director of the Center for Early Childhood Health and Development, Founding Director of ParentCorps, ParentCorps at NYU Grossman School of Medicine

Camden Coalition and its National Center for Complex Health and Social Needs

Center for Employment Opportunities

Carrie Cihak, Evidence & Impact Officer, King County, WA

Data Shine

Erwin de Leon, Chief Diversity Officer and Lecturer, Columbia University School of Professional Studies

The Dibble Institute

Cyrus Driver, Director, Partnership for the Future of Learning

Brad Dudding, Chief Impact Officer, The Bail Project

Michael Eddy, Director, Investments & Accountability, Stanford Impact Labs

EDGE Consulting Partners

Foster America

Deirdre Flynn, Independent Consultant

Gary Glickman, Managing Director, G2 Advisory Services

Ron Haskins, Former Co-Chair, U.S. Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking and Senior Fellow Emeritus at the Brookings Institution

Healthy Black Families, Inc.

Daniel E. Ho, Professor, Stanford University


Betina Jean-Louis, Principal, Arc of Evidence and Senior Advisor, Project Evident

Michele Jolin, CEO and Co-Founder, Results for America

Archie Jones, Senior Lecturer, Harvard Business School

Jeremy Keele, Partner, Sorenson Impact Group

Jim Kohlmoos, Principal, EDGE Consulting Partners

Learning Economy Foundation

Chris Lester, Co-Founder and Chief Executive, FORTH

LETS GO Boys and Girls

Rebecca London, Associate Professor of Sociology and Faculty Director of Campus + Community, University of California, Santa Cruz

Krisanna Machtmes, Associate Professor and Graduate Director Individual Interdisciplinary Program, Ohio University

Rebecca Maynard, University Trustee Chair Professor Emeritus, University of Pennsylvania

Michael McAfee, President and CEO, PolicyLink

Andrew Means, Founder, Good Tech Fest

Katie S. Milway, Founder and Principal, MilwayPLUS


Amy O’Hara, Director, Federal Statistical Research Data Center, Georgetown University

Pace Center for Girls

Nisha Patel, Senior Fellow, Social Policy Institute, Washington University in St. Louis

Marika Pfefferkorn, Director, Twin Cities Innovation Alliance and Founder, Midwest Center for School Transformation

Dani Pierce, Director of Policy and Advocacy, Cognia

PNW EvaluAnd

Policy Link

Meridith Polin, Senior Office, The Pew Charitable Trusts

Project Evident

Results for America

Sam Schaeffer, CEO, Center for Employment Opportunities

Paul Shoemaker, Founding President, Social Venture Partners

Chris Spera, President & CEO, Arbor Research

Square Mile Community Development

Kathy Stack, Senior Fellow, Tobin Center for Economic Policy, Yale University

Storied, Inc.

Tamarack Institute for Community Engagement

T. Rowe Price Foundation and T. Rowe Price Charitable

Teach for America

Think Twice

Third Sector Capital Partners

Vivian Tseng, President and CEO, Foundation for Child Development

UBUNTU Research and Evaluation


Year Up

Peter York, Principal, Chief Data Scientist, BCT Partners