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The Learning Conference 2011

June 6–7, 2011

Baltimore, MD

Short Talk — Rethinking What Counts as "Evidence"

Monday, June 6, 2011 at 2:30 PM–2:55 PM EDT
Tuscan Room (Third Floor)
Session description

The Obama Administration has put emphasis on funding “what works,” and federal initiatives such as the Social Innovation Fund, the Investing in Innovation Fund (i3) and Promise Neighborhoods are designed to grow the impact of programs. This approach seems sensible on the surface, but what does it mean? Lisbeth Schorr will explain why prevailing, narrow definitions of what counts as evidence will limit our ability to make progress on social issues. Instead, Schorr promotes a more inclusive approach to judging what works that shifts away from success-or-failure judgments to a richer knowledge base about approaches that are plausible, promising or proven.

Participant learning goals

• To understand current thinking around varying perspectives on the kinds of evidence considered credible in the selection of “evidence-based” programs
• To learn about a variety of approaches to assessing impact and how to determine which approaches are likely to be appropriate to a variety of circumstances.

Intended learning level

Exploration — exploration of ideas you’ve probably heard before in a way that builds further knowledge and understanding


Lisbeth Schorr, Center for the Study of Social Policy
Web site

Speaker Biography

Lisbeth B. Schorr is a senior fellow of the Center for the Study of Social Policy, where she works on efforts to broaden the conventional understanding of evidence as applied to the design and evaluation of complex initiatives, and to promote a results orientation to the reform of social policies and programs and to the allocation of public and philanthropic resources. She is also lecturer in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard University and a member of the executive committee of the Aspen Institute’s Roundtable on Community Change.

Session Materials